2. Chapter 1
Dol Amroth, a year later
Lothíriel stared out her window. The setting sun lit up the White Horse upon Green flying from the highest tower of the keep in honour of their royal guest. Time for a last council of war. Soon she would have to face what she had done her best to avoid for the last twelve months – or rather who. She huffed a sigh. You'd think the man would have the decency to stay put in his own country like his ancestors before him, but instead he'd befriended King Elessar and even her father, who had invited him for a visit to Dol Amroth.
She pushed the casements open and a bee buzzed past, homeward bound for the skeps kept behind the castle. If only she could follow it! How she longed for a few hours of puttering around her beehives, or better still, an evening spent in her tower, pouring over the new books Faramir had sent her from Minas Tirith. When she had been a child, she had once invented a sister who would do all the boring chores for her, while she ran wild to do as she pleased. However, there was no way she could excuse herself from tonight's entertainment. She had even considered feigning an illness, but had then decided that some things were best faced head on. Sooner or later she would have to meet their honoured guest, the way the man kept hanging about Gondor. And then...
Fleetingly she wondered if her father would listen to a plea of temporary insanity. Rumour had it that her uncle Denethor had gone mad before the end. Could she tell her father that it had been catching? Lothíriel shook her head. No, Father would never find out. The man was only here for three days, surely she would be able to scrape by somehow. She had it all worked out, had even drawn several diagrams before hitting on the final plan. Everything was under control.
A knock on the door heralded the entry of her youngest brother. Amrothos whistled when he spotted her. "You've dolled yourself up very prettily, Sister."
Once she might have thrown a slipper at him for his teasing, but that would not agree with her new role. She glided across the room, careful to keep her back straight. "Do I look elegant?" The silk whispered around her legs.
He shrugged. "I suppose so. It's certainly not your usual style."
Since her usual style consisted of throwing on the first dress to hand, that could only be constructed as an affirmative. Lothíriel cast him a grateful smile, but then quickly composed her features. A polite but distant expression, she reminded herself, elegant carriage and regal bearing was what she was aiming for tonight. Her first line of defence.
Her brother watched her with a quizzical expression. "So what's all this in aid of?" He motioned to her hair, plaited and curled into an elaborate knot at the back of her neck, the silver dress with matching slippers, the string of pearls fastened round her throat. "I can't remember the last time I saw you so ladylike. Surely it's not in honour of our guest?"
Lothíriel dropped her eyes. She hadn't told anybody, not even her favourite brother. "He's a king," she answered. "Father would want me to dress accordingly."
"And of course you always do what Father wishes you to do..."
That drew a reluctant grin from her. "Well, most of the time."
"Not according to him," Amrothos chuckled and flopped down on her bed. "So why did you want to speak to me? Or is it a full council of war?"
She nodded. "The General should be here any minute."
As if on cue, the door opened again and her aunt swept in. Ivriniel still favoured the voluminous and heavily embellished skirts fashionable fifty years ago in her youth and the pink lace frothing across her chest contrasted sharply with her aquiline features. In the past Lothíriel had frequently regretted that she had not inherited the height of her father's family, but on the other hand the famous Dol Amroth beak had also passed her by. A small mercy to be grateful for – it would have made her unmistakable!
Catching sight of her Ivriniel broke into a wide smile, her stern face transformed. "Why, Lothíriel!" she exclaimed. "You look the perfect princess."
"You think so?" Lothíriel asked, unable to keep the anxiety out of her voice. If only her plan would work! But it had to, after all it was practically foolproof. Or so she had told herself.
Amrothos regarded her with narrowed eyes. "And perhaps you will finally explain what you have been up to? For weeks now you've been closeted with dressmakers, dancing masters and comportment teachers. Please don't tell me it's all for Éomer's sake."
Lothíriel took a deep breath. Time to own up – at least partly. "Not exactly," she answered.
Her aunt regarded her with a puzzled frown. "What do you mean, not exactly? I thought you met him and thought him a nice young man and that is why..." She motioned at the silver dress as her voice petered out.
"A nice young man?" Amrothos echoed in disbelief.
"I never said that!" Lothíriel protested.
"You told me he was kind to you," Ivriniel pointed out.
Lothíriel hesitated. She had given her aunt a carefully edited version of the events that had taken place in Minas Tirith when she had first come home, for though she loved Ivriniel dearly, not even to her could she tell the whole unvarnished truth.
"He was," she admitted. The memory of being in his arms rose to her mind, the way he had held her so patiently while she cried out her terror and heartbreak on his chest. She had felt so sheltered – only to ruin it all a moment later.
Ivriniel had watched her closely. "I thought as much," she said with satisfaction. "And indeed that's why I talked Imrahil into inviting him to Dol Amroth. It might have escaped your father's notice – though not that of the ladies of Minas Tirith – but King Éomer is sorely in need of a noble born bride. And who better equipped to meet that need than the House of Dol Amroth?"
Rendered speechless by the realization whom she had to thank for this unwelcome visit, Lothíriel could only stare at her aunt in stupefaction.
Amrothos recovered first. "You can't be serious!" he exclaimed. "Lothíriel to be Queen of Rohan?"
Lothíriel was torn between annoyance at her brother for his lack of confidence in her and sheer unadulterated horror at what her aunt had done. The latter won. She sank down on a chair. "I'm lost." If her father took that notion in his head, he was bound to push her in King Éomer's way at every opportunity. How long would her defences hold then?
She looked up to find an anxious frown on Ivriniel's face. "Have I done wrong?" her aunt asked.
Lothíriel sighed. It was her own fault really, for giving the wrong impression. "What is done is done." She got up and paced to the window to stare out at the darkening sky. Bats flitted by and briefly she was distracted by wondering how they found their way in the dark so unerringly. Despite observing them many times, she had never been able to find out. Carefully she closed the window, so no insect would fly in and seek its death in her candles. Then she swallowed and turned round.
"I only met King Éomer briefly, after the battle of the Pelennor Fields, but it's true he was kind to me," she said. "However: he must never know I was in Minas Tirith." Confused silence met that statement. Perhaps she hadn't phrased it very clearly.
Ivriniel frowned. "What do you mean? You just said you met him there."
"Only briefly," she reminded her aunt. "And I never told him my name. I doubt he remembers me." Or more precisely she prayed he didn't! Perhaps King Éomer did that sort of kissing girls in cupboards all the time? He had certainly seemed to know what to do. She bit her lip, wondering as she had done so many times since, if he had found somebody else to help him forget after parting from her. Still, that was none of her business.
Amrothos, who had been watching her intently, suddenly groaned. "Lothíriel, what have you done? I can see it in your face that you're not telling us everything."
If only her brother didn't know her so well! "It's a little bit complicated," she temporized.
Ivriniel sat down in one of the chairs and smoothed out her skirts. "Start at the beginning, Child," she advised.
Lothíriel smiled at the familiar words and felt a little better. Her mother had died giving birth to her, so she had been brought up by Ivriniel, who had thrown all her heart into the task of looking after her brother's lively brood. Yet not even to her could she tell all the truth.
"It was on the night of the Pelennor battle," she began her tale. No need to explain what had taken her to Minas Tirith, for Ivriniel had helped her get a berth on one of the supply ships and covered her absence at home so none of her family had been the wiser. In retrospect it might not have been the most sensible action to travel into the midst of a war, but she just hadn't been able to stay away when all her loved ones were in danger.
She sighed. Of course there had also been that unfortunate quarrel with her brother Elphir, who'd been left in charge of Dol Amroth. But what if something had happened to her father or brothers and she had never known! Although Amrothos had been horrified when he had finally stumbled upon her in the Houses of Healing and had sent her home at once. By then of course, she had wanted nothing else.
Lothíriel began to pace. "I was tired and exhausted. King Éomer..." she hesitated. "He happened upon me when I took a break." A break from soothing men crying with unbearable pain, from easing others into their last sleep, from witnessing horrible injuries. "He took the time to talk to me, though he must have been completely spent." She had heard it in his voice how close he had been to breaking and with all her being had wanted to soothe that hurt. With disastrous results...
"And then?" Amrothos interrupted her musings.
"Let your sister tell her story in peace," Ivriniel reprimanded him.
Lothíriel took up her pacing again. She might as well tell the worst – or at least as much as she was willing to divulge. "We ended up kissing," she stated.
"What!" Amrothos sat straight upright. "Éomer did what?"
"We kissed," Lothíriel corrected him.
She couldn't bring herself to voice the whole awful truth, that it had been her initiating that disastrous kiss. All to keep her father from finding her! And then Éomer had sounded so desperate, so hurt, that she had wanted to ease him any way she could. It was not only that she owed the Rohirrim her life, but she just couldn't bear to see him in pain. Not after he had held her so tenderly. In the dark of that cupboard she would have done anything to make him forget his heartbreak. For a moment nothing had mattered, no propriety, no conventions. There were just the two of them and he needed her.
Lothíriel pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes. Madness! It was as if she had been a different person from the properly brought up Princess of Dol Amroth. She hadn't even protested at his actions! And it was not as if she couldn't defend herself against unwanted advances. After all she had grown up with three older brothers, so knew exactly where it hurt.
Ivriniel cleared her throat. "But if he kissed you, surely he'll remember you?" she asked with her usual common sense. "Wouldn't he?" She looked at Amrothos in enquiry, for he was their authority on male behaviour.
"I should hope so," her brother snarled. "Who does he think he is to go round kissing my sister! Let me tell you, I intend to give him a piece of my mind."
"Amrothos, no!" Lothíriel exclaimed. "Please let it rest. It was late, we were both tired and it just happened. Anyway, he never got a proper look at me, so I'll doubt he'll recognize me."
These words failed to soothe her brother's wrath. "What do you mean, he never got a proper look at you? Are you telling me Éomer is in the habit of just randomly mauling the females of my family without even sparing them a glance?"
Really, her brother was making a hash of it! "King Éomer does no such thing," she snapped. "He was perfectly polite! But I had hidden from Father in one of those linen cupboards, so it was pretty dark. He probably thought I worked in the Houses of Healing." What she had repeated to herself over and over during the past months: there was nothing to connect a dishevelled, grubby servant girl with the elegant and refined Princess of Dol Amroth. Her best defence. It had to hold!
Aunt Ivriniel had followed their argument with a frown. "Yes, I suppose it's better if we hush that up. Imrahil probably wouldn't like Lothíriel kissing the King of Rohan in a linen cupboard all that much."
Amrothos groaned. "Not like it? Father would throw a fit!"
Lothíriel nodded unhappily, for once in perfect agreement with her brother. And they didn't even know the worst. The memory of calloused hands roaming possessively over her body sent a flush of heat through her. That rough, strained voice in the dark had robbed her of all her senses and she had responded as no gently brought up maiden had any business to do. King Éomer would think her no better than a common harlot!
A spark of rebellion flared within her at the unfairness of it all. If you looked at it logically, they had both done the same: King Éomer had kissed her and she had kissed him. As simple as an equation. Yet if the truth ever came out, he would at worst face some censure for wanting to take advantage of a servant girl, whereas her reputation would be ruined. Where was the justice in that? But she doubted her father would weigh the facts so dispassionately. In her experience men didn't respond well to rational arguments. Unbidden the words he had uttered at the last unfortunate incident involving her came back to her.
She turned to her two co-conspirators. "No, Father must never find out. Remember what he said when I made those experiments before the war?"
"You blew up your shed," Amrothos reminded her. Rather unfairly she thought, for she had only been trying to help and after all, accidents happened.
Ivriniel tapped her foot thoughtfully. "Yes, dear Imrahil was rather vocal about the affair at the time. If I remember correctly, he threatened to let Elphir find you a husband. Still, he has probably forgotten about that."
"Then I don't want to remind him!"
"A wise decision," Ivriniel agreed. "Your brother might well make a hash of it."
Amrothos crossed his arms on his chest. "So you're hoping Éomer won't recognize you. But what if he does?"
"I'll pretend he's mistaken," Lothíriel replied. Her second line of defence. And surely the man would have as little interest in explaining the circumstances of their meeting to her father as her?
"And if that doesn't work?"
"I'll improvise," she snapped. "After all he's only here for three days." It had to work!
Her brother still looked unconvinced, but that moment her aunt heaved herself up from the chair with a decisive nod. "I agree, it will definitely be best to hush up the whole unfortunate incident. King Éomer might even think that you tried to trap him into a compromising situation."
Lothíriel stared at her aunt in horror. The thought had not occurred to her before. Compromising did not even begin to describe it!
Ivriniel shook out her voluminous skirts. "Yes, that's the best option. I'll pass the word for everybody not to mention your absence during the war."
Lothíriel relaxed slightly. That took care of the servants' gossip. Her father might suffer under the happy illusion that he was the head of the household, but in reality Ivriniel, fondly called The General by her niece and nephew, ran Dol Amroth.
"Thank you," she sighed.
"I still don't like it," Amrothos grumbled, but subsisted at her imploring glance. "Oh very well, I promise not to give you away."
She hugged him. "You're the best of brothers!"
Affectionately he squeezed her shoulder. "Enough flattery, honey girl," he answered, using an old childhood nickname. He must have seen the anxiety in her eyes, for he gave her a reassuring smile. "And don't worry. I'm sure you're right and Éomer will long have forgotten you."
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.