Fairer Sex, The: 2. Chapter One: Alliances

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2. Chapter One: Alliances

The spell was ancient.



The language in which it was recorded was almost as immortal
and when spoken, it did not sound like words but rather like music. It was a
composition of tribute by those who still remembered the songs of the Ainur
before the children of Iluvutar bound themselves to their earthly existence as
the Valar. Each line of the spell was lyrical and to hear it recited was no
different than hearing a song being sung. The book in which the spell was kept
was an heirloom that time had allowed to be forgotten. It was a relic of the
past; believed to have been a possession of an ancestor who claimed to be of
elvish descent. For years it had languish in the treasury of Dol Amroth,
collecting dust and forgotten by those who mattered and would have been doomed
to that oblivion if not for its discovery by the first daughter of Dol Amroth,
Lothiriel.



There were those who said that she was the fairest in the land,
save the Queen of Gondor herself. The daughter of Prince Imrahil, ruler of Dol
Amroth, she was known to be a great beauty with long dark hair and gold flecked
eyes that sparkled with each change of mood. Many who had seen her were smitten
but so far, the lady remained unmarried though not to lack of offers. As she
grew further into womanhood, whispers at the court of Dol Amroth spoke of
certain eccentricities in her character that the Prince was trying hard to keep
silence. Lothiriel was believed to be preoccupied with magic and was known to
cast spells. She had no wish to marry despite Imrahil’s best efforts to
introduce suitors that would meet her favor.



However, it was also spoken of in whispers, that the Prince’s
patience was wearing thin and he would soon exercise his right as her father to
make the choice for her if she would not choose herself. In truth, he could have
married her off as early as he wished but Imrahil loved his daughter, he wished
her to find a mate that would please her, just as he had done when he took her
mother’s hand in marriage. Unfortunately, it became apparent that she would not
wed unless forced into it and her devotion to magic was disconcerting to her
father because it did not abate with time, but rather deepened.



In an age where Sauron’s evil was finally vanquished and the
elves were departing swiftly into legend, the practice of magic was not favored
in the eyes of men. The people of the Reunified Kingdom had endured their fill
of magic, sorcerers and the dark arts. They had little patience to stomach it
further. Thus it was it was very terribly disturbing for Imrahil to have his own
daughter engaging in the study of such arcane knowledge. When she was a child,
he had indulged her, assuming that the fascination would fade in time.
Erroneously he believed as all fathers faced with an unpleasant truth about a
beloved child, that she would outgrow it. Unfortunately, she had not done so. To
his dismay, he realized that her fascination had evolved into obsession.



If anything gave Imrahil comfort at this point, it was the fact
that as a witch, Lothiriel simply was not very good.



Over the years, he had become accustomed to her failures. Some
episodes had been amusing, the others simply embarrassing but very few were
actually dangerous although it was becoming increasingly harder to ignore the
frequency of the spells going awry. In fact, Imrahil could not even begin to
recall if any of her spells had actually transpired as it should instead of
mutating into something unexpected that made his groan in chagrin because more
often then not, it would require his intervention to repair the damage.



As she chanted the words from the spell book that had
become something of an oddity in her family’s legacy, a keepsake handed down
from generation to generation, with origins were obscure as they were unknown,
Lothiriel knew that she had to a succeed in at least one casting. Her father’s
patience was almost at and end and Lothiriel was not oblivious to the talk about
court that he was actually giving thought to what he had previously considered
unthinkable, finding a suitable match for her in marriage.



Somehow she had to convince him that she was in possession of
skills that would require the tempering that came with proper instruction. Since
the defeat of Nameless One and the establishment of an order of wizards at
Isengard by the Grey Pilgrim, Lothiriel had dreamed of going to Isengard to
learn how to be a true wizard. Her suggestion to her father that he might let
her go to the wizards at Isengard to be instructed had been met with outright
refusal, mostly because her father did not believe she was capable of conjuring
magic.



Lothiriel sat on the floor in the center of the room. A circle
of cord surrounded her, allowing her to focus the energy required for the spell
she was casting to remain trapped in one place. Within the circle, or the deosil
as it was sometimes known, she laid out the ingredients she would need for her
conjuring and continued to read from the book. She knew some of the words by
heart and others needed her eyes upon the page to be spoken, nevertheless they
spilled form her lips in a strange chant. She did not pause as she recited them,
her eyes closed as she attempted to feel some trace of the power she knew was
inside her.



She was desperate for this spell to work or else she would be
torn away from her home and all she knew to be used as a pawn in her father’s
games of alliance. She would not marry against her will but if this failed, she
would have no other choice.



As her chanting grew more fevered, she felt her face flushed
with heat and suddenly to her surprise, the gradual fluttering she felt in the
pit of her stomach became stronger and more insistent, like the flapping wings
of a great eagle inside of her. The sensation made her heart soar and suddenly a
surge of certainty filled her veins like the rushing of blood. Her breath
quickened as her eyes clamped shut and suddenly the room around her disappeared
and what she saw after that was not to be described to anyone save herself.



However, while she spoke not of what she saw, its effect upon
the room was most marked. The air became frozen inside her circle, moving around
her like swirls of smoke. A luster of ice became to form on the floor and on
herself but she noticed nothing of the cold for she was too entrapped by the
spell to know anything beyond the words she was saying. Within the circle, it
was as Eru had breathed a blizzard into air and it circled her like a vortex of
ice and cold.



Whether or not it was the chanting of the sudden drop in
temperature that was felt by everyone else in the House of Imrahil, it mattered
little because the Prince of Dol Amroth was summoned quickly to his daughter’s
room. He burst into the confines of her chamber, not requiring permission or any
need to announce himself since he was lord and master of her, before coming to a
halt at the sight before him. His daughter sat in the middle of the odd circles
of magic he had become accustomed to seeing over the years, watching a veritable
snowstorm worthy of any that might be found at the peak of Caradhras, presently
raging inside her chamber.



"LOTHIRIEL!" He shouted.



Her eyes snapped open in shock for his was the only voice that
could return her to herself. As she struggled to maintain her composure at his
sudden intrusion, she found her control of the spell slipping and though she
struggled desperately to rein the powerful forces she had invoked, she had
neither the knowledge of the skill to keep it from being turned inside out.
Suddenly, instead of snow and ice, there was smoke, thick yellow clouds of it
that gave off the scent that was not unlike the belch from Mount Doom in Mordor.
The smell was foul indeed and as her control collapsed completely, so did the
limitations she had placed upon the spell within the confinement of the circle
of protection.



The yellow smoke spread throughout the room, sending both
father and daughter into a fit of coughing when it swept past and around them in
its bid to escape the walls confining it. Very soon, similar sounds could be
heard beyond the open door of her chambers, from the corridors and the
staircase. Imrahil swept aside the odious clouds of smoke and made his way to
the window that was slightly ajar, opening it wider so that fresh air might
displace the noxious stench.



Lothiriel had stood up shakily, she was partially doubled over
from the coughing as she attempted to expel the terrible smoke from her lungs
and her nostrils. The smell was truly foul and she realized she would have to
scrub intensely to remove it. Unfortunately, as she glanced fearfully over her
shoulder to her father, she knew that smelling terribly was the least of her
worries. Once he had opened the windows, he had turned to her and the expression
on his face was not forgiving. She had not seen him so angry in a long time and
braced herself in anticipation of the worst.



"Father, I can explain…..," she made a desperate attempt to
account for herself.



"Enough!" Imrahil snapped, cutting her off before she could
speak further. "I do not wish to hear your excuses!"



"Father, please," she pleaded, seeing the storm in his eyes and
knew with certainty that he was surging down the road she prayed he would not
take. "I was trying to help. I thought if I could show you what I was capable
of, you would send me to Isengard!"



Imrahil drew a deep breath as if attempting to soothe his own
rage from forcing him to act or say anything rashly, "what you were capable of?
What were you attempting to do other than to bring about a snow storm within
your room and make our home reek like a stable after a year without cleaning!"



"I was trying to change the weather," Lothriel stammered,
trying to hide the tears that would only infuriate him if he saw them. He would
think she was trying to use them to soften his heart. "I thought if I could
change the weather make it winter to spring, then you would see that my magic
could be put to good use."



"No more!" He shouted, refusing to listen to her explanations
because he had heard them all before and his patience was no longer infinite As
a father, he had been indulgent for allowing her to go on as long as she did
without recrimination but this could not continue. It was only a matter of time
before her efforts to conjure resulted in some mischief that could cause
injuries to others or to herself.



"I have allowed you to indulge yourself for far too long
against the advice of all our kinsmen and my councilors! You are no longer a
child with a peculiar habit, you are a lady of Dol Amroth and it is time you
behaved accordingly. I am sorry my dear but you leave me no other alternative,
it is time for you to be married, for you to begin your life instead of
languishing inside this room with your books of magic, magic I might add, I do
not think you capable of mastering. You will hurt only yourself and those around
you by your failures and I will not sit by and let it continue."



"Father please!" Lothiriel pleaded. "Do not send me away to be
married! I want to go to Isengard, to be a real wizard."



"Real wizards have power," Imrahil replied wearily, his eyes
full of sadness at the sorrow in hers. It was very easy for him to bend to her
will when he loved her so much but for her sake, he had to cruel to do the best
for her. "You have glimmers of it, most likely a residue of our elven past but
you are not a wizard and you never will be. I am sorry my daughter, you will not
go to Isengard. I will find you a suitor and you will be married. It is time you
left this room and see what lies beyond its walls and beyond those books."



"No!" Lothiriel cried out, unable to stop the tears from coming
now that the full burden of her fate was pressed against her. "Please father, do
not do this. I promise I will not touch another spell book again, I swear that I
will be a good daughter. Just do not pawn me off to some noblemen whose only
desire for me will be to solidify some alliance. Let my life have more meaning
then being the dainty you throw at some lord’s feet."



"I will find someone worthy of you," Imrahil said softly,
forcing himself to remain strong but showing her enough of his heart to know
that he would never give her to any man who did not deserve her, "I
promise."



"Your promises mean nothing!" She wept as she ran past him.
"You mean to give me away like one would give away a prized animal. Do not make
it sound any more than what it truly is!"



Imrahil could not answer her accusation because she left the
room before he could think of an answer. Despite himself, he was shaken by their
ugly exchange even more than her failed spell. However, he did not reveal to her
that he already had someone in mind to be her husband nor was he lying when he
claimed he would find a suitor worthy of her. He did know someone who was
a good and noble and worthy enough for his beloved daughter.



Unfortunately, Eomer was going to be as difficult to convince
as Lothiriel.



************



Not since the announcement of Eldarion’s birth had Minas Tirith
prepared for the celebration of any event with so much pomp and splendor. The
signing of the treaty with their former enemies, the Easterlings and the Variags
was a great milestone in the reign of King Elessar for it was a long time since
Gondor and for that Middle earth, known such unprecedented peace. With the power
of Sauron and Mordor broken forever, the Corsairs defeat at Pelagir and the
destruction of the Wainriders at the Dead Marshes, the alliance with the
Easterlings seemed to be the final act in the bloody wars that had been plagued
Gondorians for so long. The mood of peace was infectious, almost as infectious
as the hope it brought and while people praised the initiative, they praised
their king even more for making it possible.



To celebrate the peace accord, leaders across many kingdoms
across Middle earth made their way into the White City. Legolas, Lord of Eden
Ardhon, the elven enclave in South Ithilien arrived with his wife, the Lady
Melia and at his side as always, was Gimli the dwarf who was also the Lord of
Aglarond, better known as the Glittering Caves. A small procession of elves
journeyed with them and though it was not meant to be a spectacle as they rode
through the streets towards the palace, Gondorians nevertheless turned out to
watch. These days, even a glimpse of a passing elf was a rare thing and many
knew the time was drawing when the First Born would be gone from Middle earth
altogether.



Not long after the procession from Eden Ardhon had disappeared
from view; the inhabitants of the White City were soon standing again in the
streets. This time, it was the passing of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth that had
drawn their interest or more precisely, the presence of his daughter, the lady
Lothiriel. She was reputed to be a great beauty by those few who had seen her in
the flesh. The lady did not choose to leave Dol Amroth frequently and her
presence inspired the curiosity of all those who thought well of the Prince,
since he was much favored by Gondor and its king since the Battle of Pelennor.
To this end, they were not disappointed as she rode past with her father, for
she was almost as fair as the Evenstar, though Lothiriel could not supplant
Gondor’s beloved queen in the hearts of her people.



Very soon, the word had traveled throughout Minas Tirith that
Lothiriel’s reputation was indeed deserved though they wondered why someone so
lovely would appear so terribly sad.



The procession of distinguished guests continued throughout
the week, with Prince Faramir and his wife, Lady Eowyn entering the White City
during this time. Faramir who would always hold a fond place in the hearts of
all Gondorians, for they remembered when he had led the forces of Denethor to
battle the enemy during the siege of Gondor. His perseverance had kept the hopes
of many from descending into despair during the dark hours of their battle to
protect the White City and he had prepared the way for the final victory that
was achieved with the arrival of the king.



His wife, the Lady Eowyn was almost as revered for she had
defeated the Witch King on the fields of Pelennor. To many of a girl child
across Gondor and Rohan, the tales of her bravery inspired them to dream of
being more than they were. As Eowyn had proved she could be when she took up the
sword and slew the beast that killed the good King Theoden.



The last of Gondor’s neighbors to make his entry into the White
City was Eomer, King of the Mark and brother of Eowyn. The leader of the
Rohirrim entered the city amidst a small contingent of riders, appearing very
much the king of the horsemen army. Though Gondorians were used to seeing horses
being ridden by their nobles and barebacked by elves, many did not feel
comfortable around the animals. Horses were for royalty and those who served
them, not for ordinary folk. Still as Eomer and the Rohirrim rode through the
city, they looked very impressive indeed on top the saddle of their mounts.



With the arrival of the Eomer, Minas Tirith was allowed an
interlude to catch its breath before the next procession of visitors arrived and
these would be the ones the inhabitants of the city would view with a good deal
of caution despite the occasion. Many still feared the Easterling delegation
that would be entering their city in order to sign the treaty with Gondor. This
feeling of caution could never truly be brushed aside, not after the siege they
had endured when the White City was almost lost.



The night when all his friend were assembled again within the
great hall of his palace, was the first time in too long that Aragorn Elessar’s
thoughts had not been filled with thoughts of treaties and alliances. It was a
respite he was grateful to have as familiar faces he considered family, gathered
before him again.



Of Legolas and Gimli, he had seen little since the dwarf spent
much time in Legolas’ realm, claiming that the elves had not concept of building
anything without a dwarf to offer guidance and Legolas was just busy building
his colony in Ithilien. Faramir was also tending to matters at home for Ithilien
now that it was fortified against the threat of its eastern neighbors, had
suddenly drew the migration of folk from parts of Gondor that had been ravaged
during the War of the Ring. He had not seen Eomer for many months, since their
encounter with the dark elf Eol who had almost brought about the destruction of
Edoras and Imladris.



He had hoped to see his kinsmen by marriage, Elladan and
Elrohir but the journey from Imladris was long and the treaty with the
Easterlings had little to do with their realm. In truth, he believed the twins
were still a little uncertain of leaving Elrond’s city after what had transpired
at the hands of Eol. Thranduil as always was unconcerned by the Easterlings
after forming his own alliances with the northmen of Mirkwood and Celeborn of
East Lorien. With the exception of Legolas, Aragorn sensed that the elves
preferred to distance themselves from the affairs of men mostly because they
knew that their time in Middle earth was past and someday, perhaps not within
his lifetime, they would cross the sea for the Undying Lands and never
return.



"My goodness, he has grown!" Eowyn exclaimed as she saw
Eldarion in Arwen’s arm. The babe was almost six months old and was clearly
showing features from both his parents. In his face, Eowyn saw much of Aragorn
but his eyes were clearly an inheritance from his mother.



With all of the gathering yet to arrive for the evening, those
present delayed their seating at the table in order to catch up with one another
after the months of separation.



"He certainly has," Arwen beamed proudly as she held her son
like the greatest triumph in her life. "He has started to make sounds, I am
certain he is on the verge of his first word."



"He might be a little young for that," Eowyn remarked, certain
that the infant had a little time to grow yet before he could become articulate
enough to form spoken word.



"Nonsense," Arwen dismissed the notion and continued to regard
her son with delight, "you are not like every other child are you my son? You
will speak soon."



"I would not argue with her," Aragorn offered Eowyn a friendly
warning with a glint of amusement in his eye, "I have been trying to tell her
that for weeks."



"You have no faith in our son. It will serve you right if his
first word is mother,"" Arwen huffed reproachfully as she strolled over
to Ioreth and handed Eldarion to the lady so that he could be put to bed for the
evening. Eldarion should have been there already but Arwen could not resist the
temptation of showing him off to their friends.



"If you value your skin, you will not debate this further
Aragorn," Eowyn chuckled, knowing how tenacious young mothers could be and that
was discounting Arwen’s usual stubbornness.



"I think you are right," Aragorn grinned, knowing when to yield
the field of battle when the odds were against him.



"You both look well," Eowyn commented. "I am glad to see that
Arwen has recovered after that terrible business with Eol."



"She is far stronger than most believe," Aragorn remarked
quietly, his voice hardening a little at the memory of Eol and how he had been
forced to kill the dark elf to regain the freedom of his lady and of Imladris.
"It was us men who suffered most I think during that unpleasantness."



"I do not dispute that," Faramir agreed after returning from
the table where he had poured himself and his wife a cup of wine and rejoined
the conversation. "Upon returning to Ithilien, it was straight to bed for me to
recover from our labours."



"Well being struck by arrows can do that," Aragorn nodded in
agreement. "I know I certainly needed a few days in bed after returning
home."



"Yes and sometimes in bed, I even slept," Faramir added
grinning at his wife wolfishly.



"You are a scoundrel," she retorted with a bemused smile.



"I do not need to know your predilections in the bedchamber,
Lord and Lady of Ithilien," Aragorn teased.



"What is this?" Legolas’ voice entered the mix. "You were
discussing Faramir and Eowyn’s predilections in the bedchamber?"



"Then we arrived just in time," Gimli chortled gleefully.



"See what you have done?" Eowyn gave her husband a look of mock
annoyance. "Damned elvish hearing."



The lord of Eden Ardhon entered the hall with his wife Melia at
one side and Gimli at the other. For a few minutes, they were all engaged in
happy greetings and embraces at seeing each other again. Aragorn did not realize
how much he missed them all until this moment and wished circumstances allowed
them to see each other more often. However, they were each beings of destiny,
whose stars not always written together though events sometimes transpired that
saw their purpose coincide.



"How have you been Legolas?" Aragorn said to his oldest friend.



"I have been well," the elf smiled with genuine warmth that
seemed very out of place on Legolas’ usually aloof features. It had taken many
years of friendship for Aragorn to see beneath that veneer of elven indifference
to know that Legolas felt things deeply. "The building at Eden Ardhon is almost
complete. Thanks to our friend," he patted Gimli on the shoulder, "we have
created something truly unique in the woods of South Ithilien."



"Arwen, you and Aragorn must come and see it Aragorn," Melia
smiled happily at her husband’s side. "You only saw tents and half constructed
buildings when you were last there."



"Oh can we Estel?" Arwen asked, her eyes glistening with
delight at the prospect. Most of her time was spent within the walls of the
palace since the birth of Eldarion that it was nice to travel beyond the borders
of Minas Tirith whenever the opportunity arose.



"I do not see why not," Aragorn smiled, not able to refuse
beloved Undomiel anything. "Once these proceedings are done with the
Easterlings, I think a little respite would be nice."



"It will be an interesting number of days," Faramir remarked.
"Other than Melia, I do not think I have ever encountered an Easterling long
enough to know them with any depth."



"That is true," Gimli agreed. "It is far different from
fighting them in battle, that is for certain."



"I should like you close at hand Melia," Aragorn said to the
Lady of Eden Ardhon. "You know your people’s customs and habits far better than
I. It would be of great benefit to have your knowledge at the negotiation
table."



Melia was rather taken back by the faith the king had placed in
her by request and despite the encouraging gleam in Legolas’ eyes, she still
stumbled with her response.



"I will aid you in what manner I can," she replied after a
brief instant of contemplation, "however, I do warn you, it has been many years
since I left my homeland, things may have changed a great deal."



"Only the small things in any culture changes over time,"
Aragorn replied, believing that she was underestimating her value to him. "The
rest remains the same no matter what."



"I think you will be able to contribute much," Arwen declared,
offering Melia a smile of confidence and friendship.



"Who is the their leader?" Melia asked, uncomfortable by the
attention on her even though she was very flattered by the trust the king had
placed in her ability to help him.



"Ulfrain," Aragorn answered. "He claims to be a descendant of
Ulfang the Black. He is coming with his general and his queen."



"With his queen?" Melia exclaimed with genuine astonishment.
"He is bringing her to Minas Tirith?"



"Is this so surprising?" Legolas asked, noting her expression
of amazement.



"Well, it is certainly very unusual," she confessed. "It is not
the habit of Easterling women to leave their homes."



"Not even a queen who accompanies her husband on an occasion of
importance such as this?" Eowyn asked, having recalled Melia relating to her and
Arwen something of the barbaric nature of the Easterling customs regarding their
women. Personally, Eowyn could not possibly imagine being cloistered away behind
walls, away from the eyes of men for the entirety of her life. It had been bad
enough to endure the place women occupied in the scheme of things in Rohan, let
alone endure something even more backward than that.



"No," Melia shook her head. "It was not done, at least when I
lived among them."



"Much has changed for the Easterlings since Sauron’s defeat,"
Arwen pointed out to her husband. "They had been forced to adapt many new ways
in order to survive. Perhaps this is one of them.’



"That is true," Aragorn could not fault Arwen for her
observation. "Though we welcome them as allies and treat them as such, there is
not doubt they come to Minas Tirith as supplicants. Their people are starving
and they need grain and large quantities of it quickly. It was pride that kept
them from opening a dialogue of negotiation before this."



"Is this why you have assembled us all here?" Gimli asked. "In
order to salve their pride?’



"If we all stand before the enemy and receive them with open
arms, they are more inclined to believe that we are willing to put the past
behind us, Master Dwarf," Faramir pointed out.



"They are a proud people," Legolas said agreeing with the lord
of Ithilien’s assertion and the general strategy that was being employed to
receive their new allies. "We have defeated them. There is no need to break
their spirit. Your decision is wise Aragorn, to have us assembled here to show
them that they are not merely being accepted by Gondor but by the rest of Middle
earth."



"I hope they appreciate it," Aragorn replied, "I do not wish to
go to war with them."



"Do you think they are in a position to do that?" Arwen asked,
fearful of another war taking Estel away from her. For so many years, they had
been kept apart by Sauron and all the darkness that had been extinguished in the
culmination of the War of the Ring, Arwen had no wish to see another resurgence
of violence that would imperil not merely her husband but all their lands.



"Not for a sustained conflict," Aragorn explained. "However,
they are a warrior race and with the situation that they now face at home, this
is a terrible blow to their pride. It is necessary for this alliance to be
sealed before other factions in Ulfrain’s kingdom consider a military solution
to their problem."



"Eomer!" Eowyn’s voice suddenly shattered the sombre discussion
with its exuberance.



As they turned to regard Eomer’s arrival, they saw Eowyn had
already run into his arms and was exchanging a warm embrace with her brother,
the King of the Mark and the leader of the Rohirrim. Though they did not see
each other as often as they would like since her marriage to Faramir, Eowyn and
Eomer remained close as always and each meeting was always treated like the
precious moment that it was.



"Sister," Eomer grinned as he regarded Eowyn, "how does fares
the Shield Maiden of Rohan?" he teased.



"No better than the King of the Mark," she returned with a
bright smile. In appearance, they were not much different and anyone seeing them
together could tell immediately that they were brother and sister. While Eomer’s
hair was darker and he seemed older because of his beard, he was only a young
man and Eowyn could not help but treat him like the small boy who had shared
much of her childhood.



"You have not made me an uncle yet?" He arched his brow at her
in mischief.



"And you have not made me a sister in law," she returned just
as sharply.



"I think that will be changing soon enough," Aragorn added his
voice into the mix as he came to greet Eomer midway. Similar greetings were soon
exchanged between the company of friends and it was as though they had never
been apart.



"Where is Prince Imrahil?" Aragorn asked out loud as they
settled into their seats, waiting for the last member of their party to arrive
before the first course of the meal could be served.



"I have sent the servants to seek him out," Arwen informed
dutifully.



"He is travelling with his daughter is he not?" Faramir asked.
"I heard some talk on the way here that the girl is quite a beauty."



"Is this the daughter that he is attempting to marry off?"
Legolas asked, giving Eomer a clear look of intent as he spoke.



"Yes," Aragorn grinned, noticing Eomer slink deeper into his
chair as the subject reared its head. "I believe so."



"I think it is terrible," Arwen stiffened unhappily, "this
business of arranged marriages."



"It is how it is done Arwen," Eowyn replied. "For noblemen,
daughters are only good for alliances, little else."



"Has she no choice in the matter?" Arwen asked, staring at
Aragorn a little too intently for his comfort.



"It is not a matter of choice," Aragorn volunteered
reluctantly, "it is a matter of duty."



"You must remember Arwen," Eowyn explained as best she could,
though she did not like how things were herself, "that we do not have long lives
as elves do. We have one chance to do it right and on most occasions, very
little time to make our selection. If true love is found, that is all well and
good but the noble born of men do not have that choice, especially daughters. I
cannot tell you how much I feared Theoden marrying me off to that slime
Wormtongue during his enchantment by that creature."



"I would have killed him first," Eomer declared and no one at
the table believed he was jesting.



Eowyn offered her brother a warm smile as his efforts on her
behalf and continued speaking, "fortunately, I was able to make my own choice on
a suitable mate for me."



"My wife, the romantic," Faramir retorted at her description of
him being her ‘suitable mate’.



"Well the dwarf way is the best," Gimli replied with smug
authority. "The lady chooses us and it is far simpler than attempting to
understand the workings of the female mind by enduring the whole courting
process. She chooses you and that is all there is to it. No fussing about with
flowers or tokens of love, any mundane efforts at expressing sentimentality,
just a simple direct way of getting through all the rubbish to the heart of the
matter. Let her decide and save yourself the grief of trying to understand her.
I have found the only thing more unfathomable then elves is the feminine
mind."



"Melia, you are closer," Arwen spoke up. "Please hurl
something at him."



Melia tossed a napkin at the dwarf and giving her queen
satisfaction as well as a good reason for laughter around the table when the
silken material hit the Gimli on the side of his head.



"Control your wife!" Gimli snorted in Legolas’ direction.



"She was under orders from the queen," the elf grinned before
adding his own comment to the subject at hand. "I suppose it is difficult for us
elves to understand this custom because immortality ensures that we are with our
mates for a long time so it is necessary for us to make our choices sensibly.
Eternity can be a terribly long time if you give yourself to someone you cannot
stand."



"You know this conversation is somewhat redundant," Eomer spoke
up glaring at the faces before him, "since I do not plan on wedding
anyone."



"But you have not even met her," Eowyn pointed out. "You might
like the girl."



Eomer released a groan of exasperation when suddenly; the
chamberlain entered the hall and announced the eminent arrival of Prince Imrahil
of Dol Amroth and his daughter, Lothiriel. Although Imrahil was not as close to
the king as the rest of the company, Aragorn thought deeply of the man who had
aided his victory at Pelennor. Imrahil had no reason to trust him when Aragorn
arrived in Minas Tirith during the war of the Ring but a genuine love of Gondor
had shunted aside his suspicions and allowed him to do what was right. The
result had been their valiant defense against the forces of darkness and the
forging of a life long respect between the two men.



As a show of respect and regard, all save Aragorn and Arwen
rose to their feet when Imrahil and his daughter entered the room. Curiosity
filled most of them regarding the girl since the rumors began that Imrahil
wished to marry her to Eomer. She glided into the room at her father’s side,
clad in a dress of deep scarlet, with her head held low and her eyes even lower.
She did not make eye contact with anyone, especially with the one her father had
intended for her.



"Imrahil," Aragorn greeted warmly as the prince and his
daughter stood before the company. "It is good to see you again."



"And you Sire," Imrahil answered with similar feeling. He was
too much of a traditionalist to abandon the formality of addressing his king, no
matter how much he considered Aragorn his friend. "May I present to you my
daughter, Lothliriel?"



"Please," Aragorn gestured he continued as the girl’s eyes
raised at the mention of her name.



As Imrahil made the customary introductions, Arwen noted with
amusement, the reaction of the males in the room with her. They were all struck
by the loveliness of the young woman as a hint of lust and desire gleamed in all
their awed gazes. Arwen felt no jealousy. She had lived long enough to know the
folly of that emotion as well as to recognize that their interest was passing.
And Lothiriel was very beautiful. She was easily the fairest maiden Arwen
had ever seen among the race of men, no disrespect to either Eowyn or Melia. Yet
Lothiriel’s beauty seemed fragile and as she looked up cautiously to meet the
eyes of those assembled before her, Arwen saw that the barely concealed anxiety
on her face.



The poor child was terrified.



Suddenly the discussion they were just having about daughters
being used as pawns in the game of alliances returned to her sharply. Did this
girl know that she was brought to Minas Tirith to be wedded? Had she even
consented? Arwen glanced at Eomer across the table and saw that he was similarly
enamoured by Lothiriel’s beauty but Eomer was not blinded by it. Eowyn had told
her of the deep sibling bond between herself and her brother in their youth and
how it was Eomer who protected Eowyn from Grima Wormtongue when the counselor
had real designs upon his sister. Arwen could not imagine that a brother who
would protect his sister so valiantly against the desires of an unwanted suitor
would become one himself by taking this girl’s hand in marriage.



"So Lothiriel," Arwen spoke to the girl kindly after they were
seated and the first course of the meal was being served. "Is this your first
visit to Minas Tirith?"



Lothiriel swallowed thickly, not expecting the queen or anyone
else to speak to her during this gathering of friends and family, of which she
as neither. "Yes," she nodded after a moment of hesitation. "It is my first time
away from Dol Amroth."



"You could not have come at a better time," Aragorn joined in,
understanding his wife’s intentions because he could tell that Lothiriel was
little overwhelmed by the company. "With the treaty days from the signing,
everyone is doing their best to celebrate the peace once it arrives. Imrahil, I
assume you will be staying until the celebration is done. We wish to ensure our
neighbors feel very welcome."



"I still question the wisdom of extending the Easterlings this
hand of friendship," Imrahil admitted, aware that Aragorn was a king that liked
honesty from his subjects, not blind obedience and valued his opinion, even if
it was in opposition to his own. "I suppose my judgement is tainted by the
battles we have fought against them, even before War of the Ring. However, I
will curb my tongue and trust your judgement in this."



"Thank you," Aragorn said gratefully. "In my heart, I believe
that this is the right thing to do. The race of men must stand united or we will
falter. We were never meant to be as scattered or divided as we have become. Our
world is changing before our eyes and we must change with it. The Easterlings
have only Sauron and Morgoth before him to guide them in the past. They need to
know that there is another way to prosper other than by conquest and
destruction. Someone must be willing to show them for that to change."



"He makes a strong argument does he not?" Faramir gazed at
Imrahil with a little smile, having heard this speech before and was still
capable of being moved by the sincerity and hope in Aragorn’s words.



"Yes he does," Imrahil agreed and found himself bending to the
will of the king once again.



Leaving her father to talk politics with the king, Lothiriel’s
attention shifted across the table to find the face belonging to the one her
father had intended her to marry. She had been a little surprised to discover
that the King of the Mark was not some leathery faced, old war master that would
treat a wife no better than he would treat a horse but instead a young man. He
appeared perhaps a little older than her in years but not in appearance or
spirit. She tried not to stare but curiosity forced her to look. Eomer was like
his sister, with high cheekbones, a hint of bronze to his skin from being too
much in the sun and piercing blue eyes that could draw blood if he intended to
glare.



Upon their introduction, he had given her a cursory nod and
little else, indicating that his interest in her was minimal as he turned away
to continue his conversation with the dwarf as if she was not even there. His
indifference should have pleased her but instead Lothiriel felt somewhat
slighted that she was not worthy of even a word of greeting. Certainly her
father had not thought anything about the whole thing but then her father was a
man and even she was wise enough to know that they could so obtuse about things.
Obviously, she was not to his liking and supposed she ought to feel relieved
that the King of Rohan found her unacceptable because it would mean Imrahil
would have to find another suitor.



In the scheme of things, it mattered little because she was not
remaining in Minas Tirith at the mercy of her father to be handed to any man who
cared to make the offer, especially the King of the Mark.



No matter how handsome he was.



*********




The evening progressed along inevitably, with the courses
of the meal eaten and the draughts being served in generous quantities. As the
men descended into talk of politics, the quality of draughts and stories of
their past with a little more color and exaggeration in the telling,
corresponding to the level of spirits ingested. Eowyn noted her brother being a
little more restrained in this endeavor and noticed how he stole glances at
Lothiriel when he thought no one was paying attention.



The young lady herself had kept to herself, wearing a nervous
expression on her face that told everyone she was very unsure of herself. She
evoked a feeling of sympathy from anyone that saw anxiety on that face so filled
with childlike innocence and beauty. Eowyn noticed Arwen and Melia making some
effort to draw the girl out of her shell a little while Eowyn was somewhat
concerned about her brother’s feelings on the matter.



In such marriages, it was always the bride that drew everyone’s
concern. The groom often painted as an unfeeling monster that would force
himself upon a maiden who did not want him. However, for Eomer to refuse
Imrahil’s daughter would be an insult that would not only damage their
friendship but could harm relations between Rohan and Dol Amroth. Eowyn knew
that Imrahil meant a great deal to Eomer. They had fought together at Pelennor
and at the Black Gates. Her brother had no wished to slight the man but neither
was Eomer likely to enter a marriage with a woman he did not at least feel some
emotion towards. Eowyn did not blame him for she wished her brother the same
happiness that she herself felt with Faramir.



 


"You should at least talk to her if you are going to sneak
glances at her all night," Eowyn remarked as she took the seat next to her
brother. Eomer had remained where he was, making no effort to join the others as
he considered his predicament.



"I was not," he said hotly, giving his sister a frown of
displeasure, mostly because she knew what he was about possibly far better then
he himself did.



"She is very beautiful," Eowyn commented, catching a glimpse of
Lothiriel whose anxious expression indicated that she wished to be anywhere else
but where she was.



"Yes," Eomer nodded imperceptibly, unable to deny that much,
"very beautiful."



"She looks very afraid," Eowyn pointed out. "Poor child
probably believes she has no choice in this."



"I am not marrying her if she does not wish it," Eomer stated
firmly. "I will not marry anyone against their will."



"Eomer," she looked at him. "We were children of a royal house,
we know how things are done. How things have always been done. I could
have just as easily been wedded to Boromir as I could have been to his brother.
If circumstances had not altered as they had and if Theoden and Denethor had
their way, it might happened that way. As much as we desire to marry for love,
most of the time we marry for political advantage. Before you reject this girl
outright, you must consider your position as King of the Mark."



"She is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen," Eomer
confessed and surprised himself by meaning it, "not even the Evenstar can
compare but you do not love something so precious by stealing it or holding it
to you against its will. She is fair and I do not deny that I am not drawn a
little but I do not know her and beauty fades in time. I want more than just a
political alliance." he faltered as he struggled to find the words. She was
possibly the only person with whom he could confide his inner most thoughts.



"I am more than just King of the Mark, just as you were more
than Sister Daughter of Theoden, we were first Eomer and Eowyn and when you
chose Faramir, you did so as Eowyn. Why cannot I have the same privilege?" He
asked, knowing the answer before she even spoke but feeling compelled to ask the
question nonetheless.



"Because you are king and I cannot advise you on how to choose
your wife but I sense you like this girl but fear caring for her because she was
delivered to you in this manner," Eowyn guessed far more accurately than Eomer
thought her capable.



"She was so afraid," Eomer whispered softly, "did you not see
it?"



"I saw," Eowyn nodded, "I think we all saw."



"How am I suppose to allay her fears when her being here is not
even her decision?" Eomer asked his sister. His entire life had been one trial
after another, involving constant against the enemies of Rohan with little
opportunity for a private life. The women he knew were mostly tavern maids and
serving girls who were willing to share his bed for a night of comfort during is
travels. He had very little experience with dealing with the fairer sex other
than his relationship with his sister and since Eowyn was never very
conventional, she offered poor basis for comparison.



"You must talk to her," Eowyn replied, finding it very
comforting that some things remained the same no matter how much time had
passed. Her brother was still the same uncertain boy she knew, beneath the
veneer of the self-assured King of the Mark and the fearsome warrior he had
become since the days of their childhood. "If this thing between you is meant to
be, you will both know it. If it is not, then you can in good conscience refuse
Imrahil’s wish to see you wed. You can walk away knowing that you made some
effort to give his suggestion the benefit of the doubt."



It was sound advice and Eomer was glad that Eowyn was the one
to provide it. Since their youth, she had always provided him with good council,
even when that advice saw them both treading dangerous ground. He saw no reason
to doubt her now.



"I will do as you suggest sister," Eomer said decisively. "Not
here or tonight but when the opportunity arises, I will speak to Lothiriel
myself."



"Good," she smiled, glad that she had helped to ease her
brother’s concern somewhat. Eowyn had a feeling that despite his repugnance to a
forced marriage with the lovely Lothiriel, there might be more to his feelings
than what he dared to admit. She only hoped that Lothiriel felt the same
way.



***********



If anyone was able to know the contents of Lothiriel’s mind,
they would have been surprised to learn that her primary concern was not the
fact that she was terrified of being in such vaunted company, but how she would
make good her escape from Minas Tirith. The more she tried to convince her
father that she would never marry anyone she did not love, the more determined
he became that she would do just that. Even though meeting the King of the Mark
had sparked her interest more than she liked, Lothiriel was steadfastly clinging
to her desire to remain unwed for the time being. She wished to be trained as an
acolyte wizard at Isengard and was devoting her energies to seeing that dream
become a reality.



She had hoped when arriving at Minas Tirith that she would have
opportunity to meet the Istar Pallando that had recently emerged from obscurity
in recent months. However, Lothiriel had seen no sign of him and could not ask
her father for fear of giving away her plans. As it was, she was certain that
her senses had taken leave of her for even considering such at thing but her
father had given her little choice but to act. Once the Easterlings had arrived
in the city and everyone was too busy concerning themselves with the business of
the signing of the treaty, she would be free to act.



"Do you ride Lothiriel?" Arwen asked. Throughout the evening,
Arwen had engaged the girl in conversation in an effort to befriend the child
and learn her thoughts first hand on how she viewed this betrothal her father
wished between her and Eomer.



"A little," Lothiriel confessed. "I have not traveled enough to
be very adept."



"Well there are lovely trails to ride here," the queen
suggested. "Perhaps you might join me when I ride."



"Join you?" Lothiriel said somewhat shocked by the offer. "I
would be honoured."



"It is nothing to feel so honored about," Arwen replied warmly,
"just a ride and I would enjoy the company. Besides, I think that perhaps we
overwhelm you a little here."



Lothiriel let out a sigh and nodded, "I am a little shaken by
all this. It has happened very suddenly."



"Do you wish to be married?" Melia asked bluntly, finding this
girl’s situation too much like her own. Melia had been forced to flee the
Sunlands for fear of being forced into a marriage that was not her choosing by
her family. Too much about Lothiriel’s situation bore similarities to her own
experiences and she found her heart going out to this girl.



"I am a creature of duty," Lothiriel answered after great
hesitation but the question was one no one had asked her so far and so she felt
compelled to give some response. "My father desires me to find a husband, I have
no choice in the matter."



"That is not the question I asked, "Melia retorted.



"Melia," Arwen interjected, disliking the tone the discussion
was taking. "I do not think that it is fair to ask her this."



"It is all right," Lothiriel stayed the queen’s concern. "My
father wishes it and so I wish it."



However, even as she said the words, Melia knew she was lying.
She had the same gleam in her eye that Melia remembered from her own betrothal.
The same façade of acceptance to quell the fears of those who might suspect her
of acting otherwise. Melia had been similarly disposed to projecting such an
illusion prior to her escape northwards. She had lulled the suspicions of those
around her into a quiet sleep and used their complacency to make good her
escape. As much as she knew it would be scandalous for all concerned, Melia
could not find it in her heart to give Lothiriel away.



"You are a good daughter," Melia replied finally. "If you have
need of anything, I hope you will come to me while I am here in the White
City."



Arwen stared hard at Melia for a moment, attempting to
ascertain what the Easterling was attempting to do. Her senses warned her that
something was transpiring beneath the skin of all this civility but she could
not guess what that could be.



Attempting to change the subject and dispel the tension,
Lothiriel quickly spoke up again, "is it true that there is an Istar other than
Radagast remaining in Middle earth?"



"Yes," Arwen shook the disquietening thoughts away and regarded
the young girl, "he is called Pallando."



"Is he coming to these proceedings?" Lothiriel asked hopefully,
wishing to take her case to the Maia herself if necessary. It would spare her
the trouble of secret flight if she could see Pallando here in Minas Tirith
instead of Isengard.



"Unfortunately, no," Arwen answered. "He has no desire to
embroil himself in the politics of this treaty."



"Oh," Lothiriel sighed with open disappointment. "I had hoped
to see him."



"Do you know Pallando?" Melia stared at her.



"Oh no," Lothiriel answered quickly, "I am aware only aware
the Istar by reputation. I have also read all about them and hoped to meet one.
I wished I could have met the Grey Pilgrim."



"The Grey Pilgirm?" Melia looked to Arwen. "Is that the one
called Gandalf?"



"Yes," Arwen nodded. "You have an interest in wizards?"



"They have always fascinated me," Lothiriel replied
cautiously, not wishing the queen to know that it was magic where her interest
lay, even more than the wizards conjuring such forces.



"Pallando is presently at the court of Thranduil," Melia
responded after a moment, "he often keeps company with Legolas’ father."



"Legolas," Lothiriel mused, trying to recall which one of the
guests she had been introduced to, went by that name. "Is he the elf? The pretty
one?"



Melia who was taking a sip of her wine almost choked at that
description while Arwen merely attempted to stifle her sniggers.



"Please," Melia composed herself and regarded the young woman,
"do not let him hear you call him that."



"Why?" Lothiriel asked with complete innocence.



"Because the last time someone described him that way, it took
almost a full month to convince him that he did no need to grow a beard," Melia
replied with a somewhat glazed expression on her face.



"A beard?" Arwen exclaimed. Trying to picture Legolas with
stubble was a mind numbing experience, let alone a beard.



"A beard." Melia frowned.




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.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Fairer Sex, The overview

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