Field of Battle, The: 7. Chapter Six: The Lady of Edoras

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7. Chapter Six: The Lady of Edoras


Running faster than she had ever been forced to run in her life, Lothiriel
returned to the Golden Hall shortly before dusk. Terrified that she would be
caught in the darkness alone, Lothiriel made every effort to reach Edoras before
the sun set over the horizon. She was not accustomed to making such journeys on
foot but since her visit to Minas Tirith during the disastrous treaty
celebration, Lothiriel was learning that the boundaries for her personal
achievements were not as limited as she once believed. However, in this
instance, she was spurred on by more than just fear for her safety but the
desire to reach Edoras and warn them of the Dunlending scout party that had
waylaid her and her escorts.

She arrived in Edoras, so completely dishevelled that for a moment, the soldiers
who came upon her were gripped by the worst suspicions. Fortunately, the lady
herself was able to allay their fears that nothing more sinister than a rough
trek across open country was the reason for her ragged state. Still out breath
from her arduous journey, Lothiriel managed to reveal in stilted speech the
incident that had seen the death of Vorigen their commander and two of their
comrades as well. At first, they were hesitant to believe the situation could
be as dire as she believed it to be and Lothiriel could appreciate that it may
be possible that she could have misread the ramifications of the encounter. It
did not aid matters much when they learnt how she had managed to escape the
Dunlending party.

However, three dead men was nothing to dismiss and Vorigen’s lieutenant, a young
man named Reonel, who now found himself Captain of the Guard, despatched a
number of warriors to investigate the scene of the incident and make a more
adequate determination of the situation. Lothiriel watched them go, praying that
she would be proven wrong but her instincts told her that she was not and she
had come to trust herself in recent months to know danger when she sensed it.
After their departure, she retired to her room where she was provided with a hot
bath and a meal.

“Don’t worry dear,” Glyneth, the portly matron who had been a housekeeper in the
Golden Hall since the days of King Theoden, declared optimistically as she
poured more hot water into the tub Lothiriel was presently soaking in “We’ve
seen some dark days in Edoras, even before the war with Mordor and things have
always turned out all right. Why, I remember when that no good Wormtongue used
to skulk around here, whispering terrible things into the Theoden’s ear and
turning him against everyone who cared about him, even young King Eomer. Of
course, he loved Theoden like a father and wouldn’t let anything stop him from
doing what’s right, even it meant making Theoden angry.”

“I hope he is well,” Lothiriel said softly, gazing into the soapy water, though
she saw little of it.

“King Eomer knows how to take care of himself,” Glyneth said reassuringly,
secretly delighted that the young woman whom the king so obviously loved (even
if he was too foolishly male to admit it), was just as devoted to him as he was
to her. “Do you know that he was one of the youngest men to become Third
Marshall of Riddermark? I can’t tell you how proud Theoden was! He raised Eomer
and Theodred together you know, so it was just as if he had two sons, not one.”

Lothiriel listened to Glyneth giving detailed accounts of Eomer’s younger days,
having become accustomed to such stories since her arrival in Edoras. Like any
royal court, Lothiriel had come to learn that it was the servants, heralds,
stewards and maids who often had a clearer perception of how things functioned
in the palace. Through gossip, they also had a wealth of information about the
people who presumed to lord over them. Fortunately, it was clear from what she
had overheard and been told directly since coming to visit in Edoras, that Eomer
was a king greatly loved by its people.

When she finally retired for the night, Lothiriel found she could not sleep.

Despite her best efforts to force herself into the dreamscape, slumber stayed
maddeningly elusive. She tossed and turned in her sheets, annoyed because she
had certainly earned the rest after what she had endured during the day. Yet her
mind could not let go of this feeling of growing dread that something was
lurking upon the horizon, something that felt sleep was not a luxury she could
afford at this time. When it did finally come, her sleep was restless and
plagued with unsettling dreams that were no doubt derived from her waking
anxieties.

A harsh pounding on the door in the dead of night tore her from this
uncomfortable repose and Lothiriel would have almost been grateful if the reason
for her abrupt awakening was anything but what she suspected it was. Climbing
out of her bed, Lothiriel snatched a robe as she hurried to answer the door.
Her mind was still somewhat disorientated from her abrupt rousing but the fog
was descending swiftly and with clarity came the realization that she could hear
more than just the knocking at the door. Muffled by the journey through the
walls, the sounds beyond her private chambers spoke of panic and fear. Excited
voices were parrying back and forth, like the footsteps moving up and down the
various corridors within the Golden Hall.

Something was happening and Lothiriel felt her heart sink because it could be
only one thing.

When she swung the door open, she found herself staring at Reonel. There was
blood on his tunic and grime on his face. The heavy musk of sweat was on his
skin, an indicator that he had ridden hard on his journey back to Edoras.
Without requiring him elaborate, Lothiriel knew he no longer viewed her claim as
anything but genuine. He believed because he had seen for himself.

The enemy was coming.

“It appears you were correct my lady, the men who attacked you were indeed a
scouting party,” he announced sombrely.

“That is unfortunate,” Lothiriel sighed, her shoulders sagging.

“We found a second party of Dunlendings when we returned to the place you were
attacked. I believe they were attempting to retrieve their comrades’ body to
maintain the secret of their presence here. It is extremely fortunate that you
left your horse to return here on foot. If they had found you, they would surely
have killed you.”

Lothiriel shuddered at the thought but found no comfort in this when it was very
possible that any proclamations of her safety might be premature. “Are we in
danger?” She asked quietly, her question direct enough to indicate that she
wanted no shielding from the truth.

“We captured and questioned them,” Reonel replied with the frank honesty she
desired and hoped it was not a mistake. “They were reluctant to speak the truth
but we managed, through the course of night, to convince them otherwise.”

Lothiriel needed no clarification on how they were able to convince the
Dunlending prisoners to reveal their true purpose. She was the daughter of a
royal house and she knew the ugly business of torture even in her sheltered
world. It was a loathsome practice but when the fate of so many hung in the
balance, there was little choice but to employ its brutality.

“Vorigen was right? They were a scouting party?” Lothiriel prompted him to
speak.

“Yes,” he nodded. “They were scouting for an army that has taken refuge within
the range of the White Mountains behind Edoras. It is hard, hilly terrain, with
no roads or settlements. I believe they chose to come this way for they knew we
would not scout it ourselves. Those mountains have always provided us with
protection, not a safe haven from which enemies could launch an attack upon us.”

“But was not the king riding to meet Lord Bowen to intercept the Dunlendings?”
Lothiriel inquired, even more fearful for her love’s safety if this was so.

“This is not the time to discuss it my lady,” Reonel declared evasively. “We
fear our discovery of the Dunlendings may accelerate their plans for attack. We
are preparing to defend the city and that means you and the rest of the women
must get to safety. If you will ready yourself, I will escort you below.”

It was clear that Reonel was prepared to discuss nothing further until she did
as he asked and so Lothiriel conceded any effort to question him further. In
the course of her life, there had been many occasions when she had been
sequestered away while the people she loved fought terrible battles beyond sight
and hearing. Although she had been in Edoras but a short time, Lothiriel had
made it her business to become familiar with the faces that occupied her king’s
world. As much as she loved him, Lothiriel was forced to concede that it was
not simply a wife that he needed at his side, but also a queen.

As she withdrew into her chambers and proceeded to get dressed, Lothiriel
thought about her situation in passing. Of course she knew that the choice of
her husband was never going to be quite her own. A daughter of a noble house was
only good to the kingdom in the alliances that could be forged by marriage. She
knew that while dowries had not been discussed yet, at some point this would
become an issue between Imrahil and Eomer. To Lothiriel it was a fact of life
that was seldom discussed by Westernesse women of royal birth. Indeed she had
been somewhat surprised by the distaste Queen Arwen had displayed over the
entire notion.

Perhaps it was her rebellion against this institution of marriage that had
inspired her interest in magic, for becoming an istar would mean freedom from
the perceived slavery of marriage that would be her lot in the years to come.
Even though it had taken a great deal to tax Imrahil’s patience, inwardly,
Lothiriel knew that one day she might become a pawn in the games of political
alliances. Imrahil’s insistence she marry Eomer was however, partly her fault.
He had been a doting parent and she had often pushed the limits of acceptable
behaviour. Despite her adamant refusal to marry Eomer in the beginning,
Lothiriel knew she had little choice in the matter. Her father could have
married her to anyone he liked and that would have been the end of it.

When she met Eomer for the first time, Lothiriel understood that her father
still loved her dearly despite his harsh edict that she would marry whether or
not she preferred it. Contrary to her worst fears, Imrahil’s choice of husband
was not some fat, war mongering ogre but rather a young and handsome king, not
much older than she, who had was unaccustomed to being around women of noble
birth and had been sufficiently prepared by a fiercely independent sister to
tolerate a wife of similar nature. Imrahil knew his daughter far better than
Lothiriel apparently knew him because he had not only found her a husband but
also someone he knew she could love.

Once she was dressed, Lothiriel emerged into the corridor, delivering herself
into the hands of Reonel who promptly led her away from the section of the
Golden hall relegated for guests. The palace was a flurry of activity as the
mass exodus of women and children were made. Guests and servants alike were
being ushered through the halls of Meduseld towards the catacombs beneath the
city. The construction of these had begun shortly after the War of the Ring.
Remembering how close Rohan had come to falling under the might of Saruman’s
forces; Eomer had embarked upon a crusade to fortify Rohan from enemies. This
included the creation of more watchtowers, more settlements and the expansion of
the Rohirrim forces. Edoras as well had not escaped unscathed.

The city itself had always stood upon a hill overlooking the horse plains and
grasslands, with the shelter of the White Mountains surrounding it on most
sides. During the orogeny of the region, that is the period of mountain
building, the hill upon which Edoras was built had been a part of the White
Mountains itself. However through the eons, erosion had worked persistently to
disconnect it from the rest of the range and the result was an island of igneous
rock that had all the geological characteristics of a mountain but none of its
size. It was only in recent years that these characteristics could be exploited
for beneath the earth of Meduseld was a series of catacombs that were extremely
solid and deep enough to provide a hiding place during instances of attack.

When the Dark Elf, Eol had laid siege to Edoras using the remnants of the Uruk
Hai forces belonging to Saruman, most of Edoras’ women and children had found
safety within these caves and now that the danger was rekindled in the form of a
Dunlending attack. By the time Lothiriel and Reonel arrived at this hidden
enclave, they were a part of a small procession comprising of women and
children, from either junctures of the social spectrum who had attached
themselves to the Captain of the Guard as he was leading their potential queen
to safety.

It was unknown who had first coined the term ‘catacombs’ for the caverns that
existed deep beneath the mountainous island of Edoras but the name held fast and
in time, it became known as nothing less. While it was hardly the ideal hiding
place for a lady of her status in its comforts, there could be no doubt that
deep within the heart of Edoras, this place could offer them protection if the
worst came to pass. To reach the catacombs, one had to navigate the maze like
tunnels to arrive at a small, nondescript door that could only be found if one
knew where to look for it. With the aid of the dwarves of Aglarond who knew far
more than anyone else how to fortify places in the deep dark, the entrance to
the sanctuary was virtually impossible to find.

The catacombs were dark and imposing and as Lothiriel felts its walls
surrounding her, she could not help but shudder in fear a little at spending the
next few hours in such close confines. However, she kept her apprehension to
herself for she had to be strong. There was enough fear pressing against the
walls of this dungeon without her adding her own to it. Lothiriel was also
conscious that despite the absence of any announcement of betrothal between
them, all of Edoras knew what she meant to Eomer. In this present state of
uncertainty, Lothiriel knew that at present, she may be the nearest thing the
Meduseld had in the way of a queen and if she was thought of as such, then
Lothiriel felt compelled to comport herself in a manner befitting the Lady of
Edoras.

The inside of the catacombs were in no way lavish accommodations to spend the
interminable hours where they awaited with grave fears the conclusion to the
battle that would soon rage above their heads in the rest of the city. There
were adequate supplies to see them through the siege, with water, food and
blankets provided to ease them through the ordeal they would endure whilst being
in its confines. The caves were very deep and just how deeply they delved was
unknown to anyone but there was no doubt that the main entrance was the only way
in.

Though this was not always a good thing.

***********

With their wives and children hidden away safely, as safely as a city under
siege could be, the men of Edoras set about with the defense of their home. The
Dunlendings had surrounded Edoras in a ring of steel, scaling the mountains that
had always been a source of protection to the people of the Golden Hall and
ensuring that the city would be assailed on all sides. Unaware that in
Lossarnach, a similar situation was unfolding, the Rohirrim warriors quickly
rallied the folk of Edoras to launch a formidable defense.

The militia and foot soldiers took up the business of defending the walls facing
the mountains. The Dunlendings invaders had spent much of their time in the
Misty Mountains, outcast from their tribes and hiding from their enemies. They
were accustomed to battle in such terrain and were more than capable of using
the steep mountain paths to find their way into Edoras. Thus the defenders of
the Golden Hall found themselves positioned along the high walls of the city,
preparing for the enemy onslaught with swords, spears and arrows. Cauldrons of
hot oil were being prepared to use against the invaders when the inevitable
attempt to scale the walls was made

Even though it was night and the moon was full, the famed horse plains were
filled with the light of a hundred torches, firebrands marking the darkness of
Edoras’ plight. The Rohirrim wasted no time in rushing out to meet the enemy
despite their numbers being less than what they were. There were still enough
of them to ensure that the Dunlendings paid in blood for their decision to
attack Meduseld. In recent years, Edoras had faced worse things than the rabble
of their Dunland neighbors even if agents of the Easterling Confederacy spurred
them on.

Riders had already been sent out to the rest of the Rohirrim, carrying messages
to the rest of the Rohirrim at large, informing them of Edoras’ peril and the
absence of the King who had been led into a Dunlending trap. The king’s
whereabouts were still unknown but the people of Edoras knew their king and
refused to believe that a veteran who had survived the War of the Ring with such
distinction would be taken so easily by any ruse. The king was alive and once he
discovered the subterfuge of his enemies, would be returning to them with great
haste. Of this, none of them had any doubt.

It was only a matter of time.

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

The sounds of battle penetrated the deep caverns of the catacombs where the
women of Edoras awaited in their dimly lit sanctuary trying not to think too
deeply about their fates should the tide turn in favour of the enemy. Despite
the muffled noise emanating through the rock, an occasional burst would pierce
through their protective shell and provide them with a stark reminder that while
they were hidden, they were nowhere safe. Strangely enough, Lothiriel was not
as anxious as the rest of their companions during this period of limbo. As the
daughter of a royal house, the business of being sequestered away in this manner
was not new to Lothiriel since Dol Amroth had from time to time; found itself
besieged by the Easterlings or Mordor during Sauron’s dark reign. It was only
the place that had changed.

After a few hours, the boredom of huddling together in the dark, wondering
whether or not they would live or die had taxed the patience of most and as it
was with all of humankind when times were at their worst, the refugees of Edoras
began to occupy themselves by making the best of their situation. Lothiriel
found that she was the sole focus of questions from those around her as they
looked to her for leadership. It unnerved Lothiriel to realise that they were
already regarding her as their future queen, even though her relationship with
Eomer was still undeclared. There had been no announcement of betrothal and the
absence of the king, despite Lothiriel’s hope that he was well, placed her
future status among them in even more question.

Yet she supposed that in such trying times, it was necessary to look to someone
to whom they hoped could offer them strength even if their faith in her was
somewhat misplaced. Lothiriel felt just as much anxiety as they did but was
determined that in the absence of Eomer, she would try to do her best for his
people and offer them whatever light they needed in this dark hour.

Thus, she saw to their inquiries as best she could, answering their questions
and offering advice where it was needed, using her mother’s example as a guide.
Lothiriel issued instructions to Glyneth who ordered the servants to distribute
the supplies to those who needed them and to make everyone as comfortable as
possible for the duration of time in this confinement. It was surprising how
much assistance remembering her mother’s behaviour during these times provided
and Lothiriel tried to project the air of confidence needed to instil the others
with a sense of hope that they would survive this ordeal. She was rather
grateful that her recent adventure in Minas Tirith had given her character some
much-needed steel.

Inwardly however, she wished it were the Lady of Dol Amroth who was taking
charge of this anxious group.

It was following the evening meal and though they had lost some sense of time,
it was generally believed to be evening because the fighting had abated
somewhat. Yet, the cessation of noise did not signify the end of the hostilities
and until someone came to retrieve them, they could be certain of nothing. Thus
the gathering resigned themselves to the fact that they would probably remain
here for rest the night. Scattering themselves throughout the large chamber
near the entrance, distributed blankets were spread across the hard rock.
Fortunately, the interior of the chamber was rather dry and though the air was
musty, it was somewhat tolerable.

“I wonder how long will it last?” Glyneth asked no one in particular.

“The longer the better,” claimed Odrade, wife to Carleon, the Third Marshall of
the Mark. Her disposition, Lothiriel found since becoming acquainted with the
woman, was nowhere as sunny as her golden coloured hair. Her tongue was sharp
and it was clear that her marriage to Carleon had not been of her choosing since
she regarded her husband with an air of indifference.

“I do not wish to remain here any longer than necessary,” sniffled Katren,
Bowen’s youngest daughter who had been sent to Edoras as a possible lady in
waiting for Lothiriel. Unfortunately, the girl was terribly homesick and despite
Lothiriel’s efforts to accommodate this, she and Katren had not struck up the
strength of bond that was necessary for such an attachment. Thus Lothiriel had
whispered in Eomer’s ear that perhaps it was time she was sent home since she
did not appear at all happy to be so far from her family.

“We are far safer here then we are above,” Lothiriel commented, attempting to
offer her companions some much needed optimism. “If the Dunlendings have
Easterling agents among them, then it will be a battle of great ferocity and it
is best that we remain here and out from underfoot.”

“It is a terrible place to wait out this ordeal,” Katren’s eyes swept across the
roof of the cavern and her nose wrinkled in disgust.

“I have been in worse,” Lothiriel remarked with an enigmatic smile, remembering
how she had followed the Queen of Gondor through the sewers beneath the palace
during the business with the shape shifters.

“Worse than this?” Odrade stared at her sceptically. “When would a daughter of
Dol Amroth know such unfortunate circumstances?”

Lothiriel could sense the derision in her voice and ignored it, choosing not to
flinch at the edge of the cutting remark.

“Far more than you would think,” Lothiriel replied coolly, not about to react in
kind. This was hardly the time for such quibbling. “Dol Amroth lies far closer
to Mordor than Rohan. We have greater experience with the Nameless One and his
allies than anyone, save perhaps Gondor. During their attacks, our people were
often forced into hiding.”

“You went to the treaty ceremony in the White City,” Katren asked, “Did you see
them? The Easterlings? Were they truly barbarians?”

Lothiriel winced inwardly at the remark for she remembered Castigliari, the good
man who had been put to death because he had followed his conscience, instead of
his loyalty to the king. She did not think he was a barbarian and despite the
ferocity of the Easterlings, Lothiriel knew that they were a people who were as
civilised as any, even if their ways were sometimes alien.

“They came from a harder world than ours,” Lothiriel spoke a moment later after
thinking carefully how she should answer, “remember that they have been under
the yoke of Sauron for many ages and before Sauron there was Morgoth. I do not
think they have ever had the freedom to be anything than what they are. War is
all they know because that is how the dark lords had willed them to be.”

“You give them far more charity than they deserve,” Odrade snorted in dislike to
Lothiriel’s view of them.

“If this is to be a permanent peace amongst the peoples of Middle earth then it
is necessary for us to view others for what they are, instead of what we wish
them to be. This war will be over and lasting peace will weigh heavily upon how
we regard those we defeat. If we treat them badly or make them pay for warring
upon us then we will only breed their contempt and precipitate another conflict
in the future.” Lothiriel answered, surprising herself with how much of
political acumen she had absorbed after listening to her father talk of politics
throughout the years.

“I think it is far wiser to break them,” Odrade declared. “After all, they will
not show us the same consideration if we are the losers. Did you not hear what
they did at Lebethron? They murdered the entire village, men, women and
children. The women they violated first. Can you really advocate mercy for such
atrocities?”

“I do not think that there is any easy answer,” Lothiriel answered, feeling just
as much disgust for what had been done to the small Gondorian township. “I do
not that vengeance will not bring back the dead nor will it make for any lasting
peace.”

“I wonder if you would be so compassionate if the king really is dead,” Odrade
met her eyes.

“Do not say that!” Glyneth exclaimed with unabashed horror and her reaction
rippled through the faces of those who had heard Odrade’s words. “The king
lives!”

“He was led away from Edoras days before we are attacked, I do not think that it
was a coincidence,” she insisted. “This was by someone’s design.”

“Perhaps you are right,” Lothiriel said in a calm voice, not wanting to show
weakness by displaying her very considerable fears for Eomer’s safety.
“However, I have faith in my king to extricate himself from any predicament.”

“Your king?” Odrade raised a brow, “you are not even betrothed yet.”

That remark, even more than fears for Eomer’s safety, cut at her but Lothiriel
need not have spoken out to defend herself since there was others to do it for
her.

“I do not think that there is anyone in court who doubts the king’s feelings for
you, my lady,” Glyneth declared firmly, not addressing Odrade’s slight directly
but determined to speak up for Lothiriel. “It is this business with the
Easterlings delaying his hand. We all see how he looks at you and you are the
first woman he had ever shown such interest.”

“Thank you,” Lothiriel answered giving Glyneth a warm smile, “it was a mutual
choice for us to delay. Arranged marriages are often such a trial and though we
like each other well enough, we wanted to know one another a little better
before taking any permanent steps.”

Odrade said nothing, momentarily cowed but Lothiriel could see that she was
sceptical about things remaining so amicable when the marriage had been forged
by someone else’s design. Lothiriel turned away from the woman, deciding that
she cared little of what Odrade truly thought because the woman’s acidic words
had brought to surface the fears Lothiriel had been harbouring at Eomer’s
welfare. She had managed to suppress it for most of her time in this confinement
but now it had returned with a vengeance and the Lady of Dol Amroth could think
of nothing else.

Closing her eyes shut, Lothiriel offered a silent prayer to her gods that Eomer
was alive because she would be good to no one here if she believed he was not.

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

Prayers were offered elsewhere that night in Edoras, with the same hope and
longing. Warriors watching their friends die, determined that their efforts to
hold their city would not fail and keeping faith that they would prevail, made
similar offerings to the deities they worshipped with reverence. The length and
breath of the city was an expression in violence as Dunlendings forces swept
into the Golden Hall and the battle for Edoras moved from its fortifying walls
to the very heart of Meduseld.

The defenders had put up a valiant effort to hold off the invaders but the
Dunlendings were too adept at traversing mountain terrain for the Rohirrim to
keep them at bay. It was impossible to completely seal off the cradle of
mountains in which Edoras stood when the number of the enemy determined to
breach Edoras was so great. Militia and infantry did what they could, ensuring
that the Dunlendings paid in blood for every inch of their advance and even
though they had managed to penetrate the city, Edoras was by no means taken.

Thus the fighting moved into Edoras proper, in the streets and within the
abandoned buildings. Like an infestation of ants, the Dunlendings were soon to
be found everywhere and they were aided in part by Easterlings, who were easily
recognised by their dark skin and gold adorned bodies. Not since the battle
against the Uruk Hai at Helm’s Deep had Edoras fought in such a savage conflict
with every street corner and every square becoming yet another arena. Swords
clanged loudly as warriors battled each other in taverns and in shops,
splattering places that were the height of civilisation with blood and carnage.
The streets began to fill with corpses of the fallen. In death the warriors of
both factions found some common ground as they lay next to each other, blood
mingling in pools across the cobblestone pave.

Outside the city walls, the Rohirrim cavalry were faring much better as they cut
down the Dunlending forces with ruthless efficiency. As cavalrymen, the Rohirrim
had no peer in Middle earth In large numbers; their ability to cut a swathe
through enemy ranks was nothing less than devastating for they were not only
fierce warriors but extremely expedient ones. In battle, the Rohirrim’s ferocity
could only be equalled by the Haradrim and never was this more evident then at
this moment when they battled their Dunlending tribes with only a shadow of
their usual strength.

The rogue Dunlending tribesmen who were not dead on the plain were quickly
fleeing towards the safety of the Edoras. Within its walls, they could take
advantage of the closed surroundings and avoid the onslaught of the Rohirrim
warriors. The riders of Rohan gave swift chase, cutting down those who were
making their way towards the Golden Hall before they could escape. With the
shifting in battlefield, the Rohirrim abandoned the defence of the outer
perimeter and took their fight to Edoras itself.

The riders of Rohan were no less fearsome warriors when they were out of the
saddle. As discovered by Saruman and all the enemies of Rohan before him, the
ability to these formidable warriors to defend their home against any threat was
nothing to take lightly. As the Rohirrim pursued the Dunlending enemy into
Edoras, they were just as ruthless within the close quarters of the city as they
were on the battlefield beyond the city walls. The arena of their conflict may
have altered but the results did not differ greatly.

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

When the first sounds were heard, Lothiriel thought that perhaps the fighting
had drawn to a close and that they were to be liberated from their confinement
at long last. Yet above her head, she could hear the noises that corresponded
too greatly with a pitched battle and suddenly the identity of the persons at
the door took on an entirely different urgency. Happiness at liberation soon
descended into anxiety when it became clear that whomever was on the other side
of the wall did not know how to activate the mechanism that allowed the entrance
to open. Scuffling feet and raised voices soon confirmed that their intruders
were not of the Rohirrim but rather the Dunlending invaders.

The reaction of the majority was one of great panic. Cries of fear though
muffled were surely audible to the intruders and gave away their presence more
clearly than the unopened entrance. Lothiriel had been just as frightened to
discover that their refuge had been compromised and that all that protected them
was a wall of rock, which the enemy were soon hard at work trying to breach.
However, recent events in Gondor had taught the young woman that she was capable
of more than she had once believed possible of herself and with that knowledge
drew forth the courage needed to prevail.

“We must move everyone to the back of the cavern,” Lothiriel explained when she
was finally able to gain some measure of calm from those present.

“What use is that if they know we are here?” Katren had demanded anxiously.
While Odrade and Glyneth had managed to retain some sense about them, Katren who
was younger and had less experience in such situations, was clearly showing the
strain. Lothiriel would not have begrudged Katren her fear if it were not for
the fact that her outward anxiety was also affecting the others people in the
room and filling it with growing apprehension.

“A great deal,” Lothiriel said trying to display more patience than should have
been expected from someone of her youth. “The construction of this chamber owes
a great deal of assistance to the dwarf folk and they know more about creating
entrances than any race alive. If these walls are breached, it will be no way
the fault of any door but rather our own. I fear our initial exclamations may
have given them us away.”

“What do we do?” Someone asked from the group.

“Moving into the rear of the cavern is a good start,” Lothiriel repeated
herself, drawing courage from Arwen Evenstar’s courage during the infiltration
of Minas Tirith by the shape shifters. The Queen of Gondor had kept her head
under the worst of circumstances and her leadership was not due to any great
feats of dynamism like her husband but rather good common sense advice that
Lothiriel would do well to emulate at this time. “If they think that we have
another way out then perhaps they will leave to try and find it. Glyneth,”
Lothiriel looked to the older woman, “can you please do that?”

“Yes my lady,” Glyneth nodded slightly, wearing a little smile on her face
because she was proud of the young woman’s efforts to take charge.

Lothiriel did not note this look of confidence upon Glyneth’s face because she
was leading Odrade away. “I do not know whether or not this will hold true,” she
said is a softer voice.

“Yes,” Odrade nodded in agreement. “There are Dunlendings, they know the
mountains even better than we do. These chambers were not charted to their
fullest and though there was no passage found leading in here, we cannot be
certain that they will not find one.”

“We need to find a cavern that is sealed on all sides except one,” Lothiriel
remarked, “then we should seal it behind us. If they do find their way in here,
it will be all the protection that we have.”

“We could try and leave,” Odrade suggested.

“I do not think that it wise,” Lothiriel countered staring at the ceiling,” the
fighting above appears fierce. If we emerge in the open, we may give the enemy
an advantage that could cost the Rohirrim the battle. I fear women and children
make good hostages.”

Both women fell silent for a moment as Glyneth barked orders to the res of the
group and prompted the departure from the main chamber. As they were leaving,
there was suddenly a dull but loud thud against the wall. The sound reverberated
throughout the cavern, sending shock waves of fear through those present and
producing more cries of fear. The percussive sound was repeated and this time,
small clouds of dust drifted to the floor after being shaken loose from the
ceiling. Small rocks were starting to fall in sporadic intervals with each thud.


“Go!” Lothiriel cried out. “Quickly!”

Her cry sent them running, amidst a flurry of frightened cries and stamping
feet. Lothiriel and Odrade did not leave straight away; they lingered further to
hear the dangerous creaking of the ceiling. The muffled sound of impact was
becoming louder and lauder, as if the lack of success by the enemy to break
through was firing their determination even more. More and more debris was
shaking itself loose from the darkened corners of the cavern but it was the
sound of cracking that gave Lothiriel the greatest cause for concern.

“They may not break through,” Odrade replied, taking stock of the debris and
dust that was filling the air with its choking particles, “but I do not think
that we are in any less danger.”

“You are right,” Lothiriel nodded, staring in horror somewhat at the fissures
that were appearing across the ceiling. “They may not break though but they may
bring down the cavern around our ears.”

Just as she spoke, a large chunk of rock dislodged itself from the cavern
ceiling and came to a thundering crash near them. Lothiriel and Odrade were
barely able to throw themselves clear of the impact. Dust filled the air a like
blankets of sand and both women were coughing loudly as they struggled to get to
their feet, brushing off the fragments of rock that had dug into their skin.
Fortunately, neither were seriously hurt though they were both very shaken.

“We could be buried alive if this continues!” Odrade declared as she helped
Lothiriel away from the path of any further debris.

“We will be buried alive!” Lothiriel returned, trying to make herself heard over
the pounding against the wall. “We must stop what they are doing!”

“How do you propose to do that?” Odrade stared at her, wondering where the steel
in this girl had suddenly emerged.

Lothiriel did not speak for a moment because her eyes were searching the walls
of the catacombs. She could feel the vibrations of rock grinding against rock in
protest of the bombardment to which it was being subjected. Each time invaders
attempted to collapse the wall, Lothiriel could see another fissure appear. The
constructors of the cavern had been shrewd enough to ensure the entrance to the
catacombs could not be found but there was no way they could fortify rock. It
would have been a place of safety if the frightened voices had not given
themselves away to the enemy who knew now that there was an entrance and were
determined to bring down the wall that surrounded it if they could not find it.
Perhaps in truth, after the battle of Helm’s Deep and then Uruk Hai invasion of
Eol, none of the Rohirrim had expected their city to fall under attack again.

“We must let them in,” Lothiriel answered softly.

“Are you insane?” Odrade stared at her in nothing less than shock.

“If we do not let them in, they will continue pounding against the walls under
it brings down the entire chamber. We do not know if there is a way out of here
but we cannot allow them to continue their bombardment.”

“You cannot be thinking this!” Odrade protested. “Do you know what will happen
to us if we let them in?”

“I am perfectly aware of it,” Lothiriel returned, reacting to another crash
against the wall and its corresponding effects. “However, we have little choice.
Can you not hear them above? Our warriors are fighting for their lives up there
and their thoughts are too preoccupied with the danger to the rest of the city
to even conceive we are in danger. By the time, they realised that we are under
threat it may be too late. Look at the ceiling!”

Odrade followed Lothiriel’s gaze and saw that amidst the swirling clouds of
dust, mighty cracks were forming in the walls of the chambers and it could not
take much more pounding before the entire cavern gave way. As horrifying as the
notion of allowing the enemy into their sanctuary, there was the even worse
possibility of becoming buried alive in rock. If there was no other way out of
the catacombs and like Lothiriel, Odrade suspected there was not, then they
would be trapped with no way for even their own people to free them should they
win the day.

“What is it you wish us to do if we allow them in?” The woman asked Lothiriel.

“I will need you to take them as far away from this chamber as possible,”
Lothiriel said quietly, aware of what had to be done even though it frightened
her to no end to do it.

She had been steadily refining her abilities and had on previous occasions used
them to save her life. She wondered if she could manage another feat of magic
once again? And if she could, how would the people of Edoras view her? Since
her arrival at the Golden Hall, Lothiriel had kept her knowledge of magic
somewhat secret. She feared the disapproval of the people who may some day ask
to look upon her as queen. Even when she had used her powers to survive the
Dunlending ambush, Lothiriel had been reluctant to speak the truth. However,
she no longer had a choice. If she were to save them, then she would have to use
magic to do it.

“To what end?” Odrade asked, staring at her in concern.

“Do not ask questions of me,” Lothiriel returned her gaze with the hint of a
plea in her eyes. “I need you to obey me in this. I know that I am not your
queen and I have no right to order you to do anything but I beseech you, as a
woman and as a daughter of a noble house to do as I ask.”

Odrade drew in a deep breath and found herself trusting this young woman whose
eyes showed not only her obvious fear but also her conviction. Whatever it was
Lothiriel intended to do, Odrade found herself in the position of being forced
to believe that she could do it by sheer will alone. “Once we have hidden
ourselves, what then?”

“Then I will deal with them,” Lothiriel answered firmly.

“Deal with them?” Odrade looked at her sharply, “how?”

“I have means,” she replied evasively. “However, it would be best done when you
are all safely hidden away. I may yet fail in what I intend to do.”

“What exactly would that be?” Odrade insisted, still sceptical about Lothiriel’s
claim and reluctant to abandon her to the enemy, the woman that the entire court
of Edoras expected to be the next queen of the Golden Hall.

Lothiriel did not wish to elaborate and with the pounding growing more and more
intense, the opportunity to do so was lost with the intermittent fragments of
rocks that were breaking free from the ceiling around them. The wall was
persistently holding firm but the enemy would not need to breach it in order to
kill everyone inside. Their continuous bombardment would ensure that end far
more effectively than any opening they could create in the rock.

“There is no time to explain,” Lothiriel hissed. “Go now!”

She ushered Odrade through the chambers and watched the woman disappear into the
catacomb’s maze of tunnels.

“May Elbereth walk with you,” Lothiriel said under her breath and added a moment
later, “for she will not be with me after I have done this.”
*************


The king of the Mark returned to his city and found it in the midst of a life
and death struggle.

This was of no great surprise to Eomer since he had more or less anticipated an
attack by the Dunlending tribes and had returned to Edoras with great haste in
order to combat this offensive. Since discovering the remains of Bowen and the
army that rode under the leadership of the Marshal of the Mark, Eomer had
surmised that the alliance of goblins and Dunlending tribesman could have only
one purpose, to bring down Edoras and Rohan as Saruman had once tried to do when
he united them under the same banner. He and his riders had ridden hard to reach
Edoras in time though he was much gratified to see upon his return to the Golden
Hal, that his people were quite capable of defending themselves without his
presence.

Still, the return of their king had fed the fire of their spirit and not since
the battle of Helm’s Deep had the Rohirrim been polarized with such a powerful
desire to vanquish the foe. In the saddle or out of it, the Rohirrim warriors
were nothing less than relentless in their thirst for victory. Great swords,
arrows, pikes, hammers and other lethal weapons met each other in fearful
warfare and the result was blood in every street, bodies covering the floor in
such great numbers that it was hard to move. In close quarters combat, they
could feel blades, limbs and the hot breath of the enemy pressing against them
and it was a revolt that was paid for in blood.

Eomer and the Rohirrim warriors at his side did not bother to dismount their
horses, instead they rode through the gates that were flung open for their king.
Eomer cleared a path through the enemy with his sword, cutting down those who
were unfortunate enough not to get clear in time of his blade meeting their
flesh. The others astride their horses carved a similar path of carnage with
arrows. Moving forward in tight formation, the warriors knew how to use their
mounts and their weapons to the best advantage. Forging a phalanx of swords
astride their horses, they ensured that no arrow was capable of penetrating the
wall of steel they created as they neared the Meduseld.

By the time Eomer reached the heart of Edoras, the fighting had contracted to
the walls of the Golden Hall. A good many Dunlendings had entered the palace in
the hopes of securing hostages they may use to parlay their demands. However,
their foothold was weak as it was more than likely than the women and children
of Edoras were already secreted in the catacombs beneath the city. Still, those
defences had yet to be tested under these circumstances and Eomer feared that
the fortifications might not be as formidable as those to be found in Helm’s
Deep.

Upon reaching the Golden Hall, Eomer and the rest of the Rohirrim riders was a
swarm of armoured bodies against the fur clad Dunlending wild men. The king of
the Mark, still stinging from injuries received when they had encountered the
goblins led the charge through the remaining warriors. He could hear the
Dunlending war cry through the halls of Meduseld and fought his way up the steps
of the royal palace overlooking the city.

“Hurry!” Someone shouted on top of his lungs. “They are attempting to breach the
catacombs!”

Lothiriel!

Eomer thought in panic and swung his blade with such a mighty stroke at the
enemy before him that they were cut in half. Blood splattered across the ornate
design of his armour as he turned to the men nearest to him and barked loudly at
them to follow him. Knowing what their king intended as well as what was at
stake, they pressed on through the fighting to reach his side and follow him
into the Golden Hall. After all, it was their wives and children who were
taking refuge beneath the city as well.

***********


The door opened.

The heavy stone slab scrapped loudly against the gravel-covered floor when the
mechanism to activate it was finally set in motion. Lothiriel watched the
entrance appear from the other side of the chamber, ensuring that she remained
unseen as the prey passed through the doorway of rock. Hidden in the shadow of
the dimly lit room, she could smell her fear as palpably as she could smell the
terror of those cowering in the darkness further along the caverns. She hoped
that they had hid well for if she failed, they would have no protection from the
wild men moving deeper into the chamber.

Lothiriel closed her eyes to settle her great terror at being alone with them.
They had not seen her yet but it would not be long before that situation
altered. Even now, she could hear their footsteps against the dirt growing
louder with each passing second. The air that until now had been cool and dank
suddenly became warm and lusty, producing beads of moisture against her forehead
and beneath her nose. She knew that its cause was most likely her fear rather
then the temperature but she gave no further thought on this because she had
work to attend. Trembling so hard that it was near impossible to do what was
necessary, Lothiriel forced herself to utter the chant and concentrate.

They were coming!

She could hear their approach and knew that in seconds they would discover her
and when they did…

Stop this! She told herself with surprising venom. Do what must be done or not
you or anyone else will survive! Lothiriel closed her eyes shut, causing tears
and sweat to run down her cheeks as she focussed hard, drawing all her strength
and contracting it into a ball of thought that would see her will done. Her
fists clenched, nails dug into her palms, drawing blood as flesh tore. Her lips
muttered softly the words needed to be spoken. She dare not speak any louder
because she feared alerting them to her presence but knew nothing would stop
that once they were inside and they were, coming closer.

The Dunlending wild men surged into the chamber, smelling the residue of bodies
pressed closely together before the debris of dust and stone had masked a good
deal of it away. Their eyes searched the dim light of the cavern and found
quickly their prey, a lone female at the far end of the chamber, stricken with
so much fear that her pale skin was almost white. They moved in closer,
determined that she would be the first of many they would lay claim to when
suddenly, the ground beneath them became soft as mud. Confusion set in as they
began to sink, until they could feel sand filling their boots and swirling
around their ankles.

Confusion gave way to panic when it was discovered that they had not stopped
sinking and the ground no longer had cohesion. Closely compacted earth suddenly
developed the consistency of mud and their weight was dragging them into it with
each step they took. Someone cried out to retreat but by then the sand was
inching past their waists and the ground was rising up to meet them. Cries of
indignation and disbelief soon degenerated into screams of terror as some
realized the terrible end they were about to experience. Like men drowning, they
clawed at the air as their bodies sunk deeper into the ground, too frightened by
the dying to come to recognise that the person responsible for it was watching
with just as much horror. They screamed and they fought desperately, making it
no further across the chamber than the middle of it and as their voices grew
hoarse and thready, it was silenced by the flow of sand into their open mouth.

Lothiriel was weeping because she had not seen when she had first done it. She
had closed her eyes shut and kept it that way until the deed was done. However,
on this occasion, the number of them required concentrated and her sight. She
had to watch to see it done properly. She was exhausted beyond reason for she
was no Istar. She understood that she had some power, no doubt a legacy of her
elven heritage but not enough to equal a true Istar like Gandalf the Grey or
Pallando who now dwelt in Isengard. She saw their eyes wide with terror as
their throats filled up with dirt, their fingers clawing desperately at the air
even when their heads had disappeared into the ground and knew that she would
never forget the sight of them for the rest of her life.

When they were dead, when the screams were silent, Lothiriel who had been
crouched low when she had conducted her spell, collapsed upon the dry earth
weeping even harder. If she had killed them with a sword it could not have felt
as bad as this moment, when she had used magic to extinguish the light of lives.
She had only wished to help those around her with her abilities, to be more than
simply another vapid noble women with no ambition other than to live a life of
subservience to a husband. She had never wished however, to kill.

She did not know how long she sobbed there in the dirt, oblivious to all until
she heard more footsteps and raised her face, streaked in tears and dirt,
thinking that perhaps more Dunlendings had come. If they killed her perhaps it
was not undeserved. She had a great deal of blood on her hands even if none had
been spilled. However, when she saw the faces coming into the light and who led
them, she let out another loud sob. This one was not mired in anguish but rather
relief.

Eomer and the rest of his men saw the scene before them, the hands protruding
from the earth as if someone had chosen to plant men in the ground the way one
would do to seedlings. This was nothing less than sorcery and how this had come
to pass was a matter of confusion to everyone but Eomer who knew what his lady
was capable of, though he had never thought her strong enough to do this. It did
not frighten him as much as worry him about what her state of mind would be
after being forced into this position. She was gentle, his lady, incapable of
intentionally hurting anyone unless she was driven to protect the people she
loved.

“Eomer!” She cried out, her voice half filled with happiness at seeing her and
half anguished at his seeing what she had done.

Eomer sheathed his sword and crossed the space between them in a matter of
seconds. She ran into his arms, uncaring about propriety or gossip. Neither did
the king care when he swept her into his embrace and held her close, knowing
that in the wake of what he saw here, she would need one. Lothiriel buried her
face in the crook of his shoulder and wept softly as the men around her king
discreetly moved past them to search for more of their women, no doubt hiding in
the catacombs.

”You are alive,” she whispered softly when they had parted, her lips quivering
as she spoke. “I feared the worst when no word was heard from you.”

“I would like to believe that it would take more than goblins to bring about my
death,” he joked, making no attempt to remove his arms from her waist. Feeling
her next to him was too good and suddenly brought home how precious she was to
him. “Besides, how could I do anything as inconvenient as dying when I have you
to return to?” He smiled, raising her chin so that she could see the depth of
emotion reflected in his eyes.

“Do you still want me, after what I have done?” She turned away, blinking tears
down her cheeks as she regarded the dead men trapped beneath the earth.

“What you have done,” Eomer replied, “is save yourselves from the ministrations
of barbarians who would done great harm to you and the others taking refuge
here. I do understand what you did was for the good of all.”

“I didn’t mean to!” Lothiriel exclaimed, still horrified by what she had done.
“But they started pounding at the walls and each time they struck it, the
ceiling shook and began to crumble. I feared that if I did not do something, it
would fall upon our heads and bury us all alive!”

“I know,” Eomer said gently, seeing that the death of these men, even if
deserved, preyed heavily upon her mind and reminded himself that all every
warrior who was blooded for the first time reacted in a similar fashion. It was
no small thing to take a life and though it may be necessary, it was never easy
to one whose heart was good and noble. “I cannot say the words that will make
this easier for you my love, but in times of war we must all do what is required
of us. I know this was not easy for you to do but you have protected my people
and yourself from harm and for that I cannot be anything but grateful for what
you have done.”

“Then I will try to feel put this behind me,” Lothiriel swallowed thickly,
deciding that what was done was done and that there was nothing to do but live
with the consequences. However, she knew deep in her heart that never again
would she be able to look upon the business of magic as anything but a
double-edged sword that had the power to not only create life but also destroy
it.














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 Field of Battle, The overview

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