When I woke to the pale golden sunshine of early morning, the faint smell of ashes and burnt wood still lingered in my room. I stretched in the warmth of the covers and realized that I felt wide awake and cheerful. A good day's and a better night's rest had done me good.
I rose to my feet and padded to the table with the ewer and the washing bowl next to the window. For a moment I remained standing in front of the window, careful not to look straight down in an effort to escape that queasy feeling that sheer heights of any kind give me.
How incredibly beautiful, I thought.
The sky was a deep, but bright blue, an almost ultramarine hue that seemed to go on forever with no clouds at all. Only at the horizon far away to the south, where the plains of South Gondor dropped away to the sea, there was a faint white mist which made it impossible to see where the sky ended and the earth began. Although it was still early in the morning, the sun was already warm and blazing. It was the beginning of May and in Gondor that is already summer. There was just a little snow left on the peak of Mindolluin. It glittered silver and blue in the morning light. The lower slopes of the mountain were covered with heather and gorse, which were already starting to bloom, spreading a soft violet and yellow veil across the sides of the mountain.
But what made me catch my breath this morning were the plains of Lossarnach arrayed in a mosaic of a thousand shades of green on the western banks of the Anduin, and the great river itself. The Anduin meandered southwards through fertile green fields as a great silver stream.
I sighed. It was hard to believe that to the east and the north the Fields of the Pelennor stretched brown and barren around the city.
I turned my back to the window and my attention to getting clean. When I had brushed my teeth I stared for a moment pensively at my toothbrush. It was high time for a new one. But I had seen the twigs or brushes used here. While the twigs of birch or willow that were used to clean away things hanging between your teeth were not too bad in the way of toothpicks, the brush I had seen Éowyn use was… bristly.
And I yearned for something to use as a toothpaste. In the end I decided that my toothbrush would last for a while longer, though it was not much to look at anymore and cleaned it carefully before putting it away again.
I dressed in my least faded blue jeans, a blue shirt and a black tunic, thinking that I might get rid of the tunic later on when the day grew really hot. At least there were no customs about women not being allowed to wear trousers in Middle-earth. Although most women in Minas Tirith wore dresses and skirts and those idiotic scarves to cover their hair, the Rohirric women mostly dressed in trousers and long tunics, as did the women of the Haradrim. But I guess the deciding factor in the history of women's clothing in Middle-earth were the elves. Among the elves there is no real difference between elleth and ellon. They may do and they may wear the same. It's entirely up to the individual. Although human customs were of course different, thousands of years of associating with the other culture had prevented Gondor from turning into one of those southern countries which hide their women from head to toes under a hundred layers of fabrics and veils. It was not very common to dress in trousers and tunic for a woman, but some did that, especially the few women working as guards or traders. Thank god!
The mere thought of those heavy dresses in the summer heat made me shudder with disgust.
But looking down at the thinning fabric of my jeans, I knew that I had to do something about my clothing soon. The months on the road had been hard on my clothes.
Hell, they had been hard on me, I thought, rubbing at the scars around my wrists.
This morning I was one of the first at the breakfast table. When I came down, only Legolas and Sam were already up. I got myself a cup of tírithel and a bun studded with raisins and almonds and sat down at the table so that I could look out of the window. From the ground floor of the villa you had a lovely view of the white buildings on the sixth circle of the city, which gleamed like alabaster in the sunshine of the morning.
"This looks as if it's going to be a beautiful day," I said to no one in particular.
"Summer is coming," Legolas replied. "It will grow hot in Minas Tirith ere the week is over."
"Probably," I agreed. Then I noticed Legolas' grin. "You really know how the weather's going to be, do you? Keen Elvish senses and all that?"
The elf's grin broadened. Rangers, elves and wizards. No wonder there is no such thing as a weather forecast in Middle-earth.
"So what are you up to today?" I asked.
"Haldir has asked if I wanted to accompany him on a hunt in the mountains. I think I will go. Gimli said he wanted to. It will be good to get away from all that stone of this city and breathe some forest and mountain air again." Legolas looked impatiently at the door. "That is, if this dwarf will be down in time."
"I could go and wake him," Sam offered.
"I don't think allowing hobbits to wake someone is a good idea," I cautioned the elf. "Remember what happened to my bed."
"That was Gandalf's fault," Sam grumbled.
Legolas smiled at the hobbit. "That is true. Nevertheless I think I will content myself with waiting and hoping."
He did not have to wait long. Before I had finished my first cup of tírithel, a grumbling, grouchy dwarf appeared in the doorway with his beard still damp from washing and already dressed for hunting. Gimli was not a morning person. I think he said something like good-morning to me, but it could also have been "drown yourself". After two cups of the Gondorian coffee-cocoa mixture, he looked more alert, almost recognizable as the fierce dwarf he usually was. That was just as well, because when he had finished his drink, Haldir arrived with Elrond's sons and Éomer, all of them dressed for hunting.
In the flurry of greeting and getting ready to go, Éomer managed to approach me.
Just to see him from a distance made my heart speed up, but when he came up to me and indicated a kiss dropped into my palm, my stomach did a hard flip. Éomer had tied his dun-golden hair at the nape of his neck, but there were a few stray tendrils that played around his face, making him look softer. His dark eyes seemed to tell me sweet things that he could not say out loud.
"Lothíriel," he said, his voice as dark and warm as his eyes.
I felt myself grow bright with a huge smile. "Éomer."
"Éomer! Let's get going!" That was Haldir. I'm going to kill that elf.
"I have to go now, my lady. My companions are eager for the hunt."
"And you are not?" I asked, a little breathlessly.
"The game that I would rather hunt is right here," he told me. "But I promised. And I keep my promises."
"Éomer! We want to go!" That was Elladan. I am going to kill that elf, too.
"And so you should, my lord. Promises are important."
Éomer took my hand in his. His grip was strong and warm, but his fingers stroked the back of my hand in a most delicate caress. "Yes, promises are important," Éomer agreed, his voice a velvety murmur. "Could I ask a promise of you, my lady Lothíriel?"
"Of course you may," I whispered. "If it is in my power to fulfil."
"The day after tomorrow I will renew the Oath of Eorl to the King of Gondor. It is an important and most solemn ceremony. I would like to ask you to come and witness this hour of triumph and friendship, my lady. Your presence would fill my heart with gladness."
My heart thumped heavily. "Of course, my lord," I answered, feeling slightly breathless. "I will come. It is an honour that you ask me."
He bowed deeply over my hand, slightly, ever so slightly touching his lips to my skin.
I shivered and felt the heat rise to my cheeks.
"Éomer King! The deer won't wait for us!" Gimli called from the door. "Take your leave from your lady; we have things to do today!" I am going to kill that dwarf, too.
"I'm coming," Éomer called out.
He walked to the door, but before he left, Éomer turned around once more and gave me a smile to brighten even the darkest day.
Then they were gone.
I sighed deeply.
Not long after the hunters had left, Frodo, Merry and Pippin turned up for breakfast. Sam joined them for seconds and in next to no time the room was ringing with talking, laughter, jokes and good-natured bantering.
Gandalf only took the time for a cup of tírithel, then he was gone to the Citadel, advising Aragorn on a matter concerning the embassy of Khand.
I spent some time sitting quietly in the corner with my second cup of tírithel, watching the hobbits and daydreaming. What should I do today?
Perhaps I could visit Éowyn. I should definitely visit Míriël. And I had to go and check on Mithril in the stables of the Guards. Éowyn would kill me if the beautiful Meara lacked in anything. Not that this was likely. The Guards took good care of their horses and of the Rohirric horses stabled with them at the moment. But I wanted to see Mithril. I really loved the horse. And although I was by no means an accomplished rider, my skill had increased greatly during the last few weeks of riding with Éomer. Perhaps there would be time for some riding tomorrow?
Finally I decided to call on the Lady of Dol Amroth first, and then go and see Éowyn. But before I had the chance to do either, a knock sounded on the front door of the villa, and moments later the Lady Míriël was led into the living room by a maid-servant.
The hobbits were up and bowing at once. Míriël curtsied prettily, which made Sam blush.
I was given a quick hug and a kind smile. "You look a lot better, Lothíriel. I thought that the travel and the excitement of… the coronation," here she raised her eyebrows pointedly, "did not agree with you. You seemed to be very exhausted."
"I can tell you…" I said, groaning.
Míriël's lips twitched slightly. Was she trying to keep from laughing?
"Then come with me for a walk and do tell me. My lords periannath, it was nice to meet you again." She nodded at the hobbits who scrambled to another round of bowing.
Míriël led the way and I followed obediently. Why did I think that she had more in mind than a simple walk?
Because she had more in mind than a simple walk. We were just around the corner, and I was still gathering my courage to talk to her about the night of the coronation and Éowyn, when she told me what she was really up to today. "Éomer King has asked me if you would accompany him and his sister to Rohan. He said his sister asked for you to come especially. She needs a female companion. And don't I know that's the truth! You know, it's really wonderful to see that Éowyn has finally found a friend. Friendship among the nobility is always difficult, but Éowyn of Rohan has had it more difficult than most. They will leave in five days, on the eighth of May.
"Now," Míriël continued in a more serious voice. "Ordinarily it would not be quite proper to allow you to ride with them on your own." She grinned and shook her head. "It was funny to observe Éomer's despair when I told him that I cannot accompany you. I think he imagined I would not allow you to accompany him on your own… And I am not sure if it is a good idea, either, mind you." She gave me a stern look. "I know I can trust Éomer. He's a trickster and no mistake, but he's a good man. – I remember when he was a boy, they spent a summer here at Minas Tirith – the pranks he would get into with Boromir and Faramir…" She smiled in reminiscence.
"You knew Éomer when he was boy?" I stared at Míriël.
"Yes, of course. I was fifteen when he was born. I think it was the year 3001, the summer I am thinking about. Yes. I was twenty-five. Éomer was ten. A rascal! We spent the summer in Minas Tirith for some political reasons. That was actually quite horrible. It gets very hot here in the summer. Dol Amroth is much nicer. Anyway, I remember well how Boromir and Faramir fooled around with Éomer that summer. – Éowyn and Éomer had been allowed to accompany Théoden King and Prince Théodred that summer. A special treat for Théoden's beloved sister-children. Théodred was the same age as Boromir and had been made Second Marshal of the Mark that very year. Boromir was already Captain of the Guard then, but Faramir was still a few years away from his coming of age. They had so much fun." She sighed, and her eyes grew sad. "Just a year later Éomer's father was slain by orcs. His mother grieved herself to death. She died at the end of the very same year. It was a long time until I heard Éomer laugh again." Míriël's eyes darkened with the memory. "He had to grow up quickly."
I realized how little I knew about Éomer, his life and his family. A cold shiver ran down my spine. How could I ever expect to fit into his life? It wasn't only that I knew almost nothing about his life or his family. I also knew almost nothing about the history of Rohan, about its laws, about its politics, about the ties of its noble families this way or that way. I was a foreigner. How could I ever expect…
"Don't worry, Lothíriel. You will learn all that is necessary," Míriël told me in a comforting voice. Another mind-reader, apparently. Or perhaps only motherly intuition. I gave her a weak smile. If that was the only problem…
"But now to matters at hand," Míriël changed the subject briskly. "As I was saying, Éomer charmed me into agreeing that you may accompany Éowyn to Edoras." She grinned at my heartfelt sigh of relief. "I know how hard it is to be parted many weeks when you want to get to know someone, Lothíriel. I have not forgotten how I felt when I was fifteen and was not allowed to see Imrahil even half as much as I wanted to. And as a female companion to Éowyn, this journey is actually an appropriate trip for you to make. That is, if you behave yourself." Another stern look was cast my way.
"Yes, yes, of course I will!" I said quickly. "But why can't you come with us?"
Míriël smiled at me. "You would really like to have me along? To interrupt you and Éomer watching the sunset together? You really are a sweet girl, Lothíriel! And I must admit, I would have gladly accompanied you. Not only because it would have been much more proper than sending you along as Éowyn's companion, but because I really enjoy your company. However, I have simply too much to do here in Minas Tirith to be able to leave right now."
"Why?" I asked. "What's happening at Minas Tirith that you can't get away?"
"Oh, but surely you know that, Lothíriel! There's a wedding to be arranged, and not just any wedding," Míriël told me.
"Of course!" I cried, feeling excitement sweep through me. Arwen and Aragorn! "How could I forget about that! Do you know when the wedding is going to be?"
Míriël smiled. "Of course I know. It will be held on midsummer's day. So be sure that you return in time. I will be the Queen's first lady-in-waiting. Only in the way of an honorary title, of course, but still." She sighed. "That wedding will give me some headaches yet. It's too bad that Faramir can't marry right now, then I would have at least some help. But with her uncle not yet buried, there's no way to shorten their betrothal, no matter what Éowyn has in mind. You see, the first family of the realm is of course the king's family. The wedding should be arranged by the King's mother or any other female relative. But as Aragorn's closest female relative is actually his betrothed that is not possible. The second family of the realm is the Steward's family. But there are no women left of that line either. Thus the planning of the wedding has been dropped into my lap."
"Why is that?" I felt confused. First families, second families, weddings, ties, betrothals… it was easier to get the hang of German civil law than of Gondorian and Rohirric nobility.
But Míriël only smiled patiently. "It's because Dol Amroth is the third family in the Books of Kings. At the moment my husband is second in line to the stewardship. But I am sure that won't stay that way for much longer, with Faramir's betrothal about to begin. However, the notable lack of noble ladies in the first and second family of the realm has made the royal wedding my responsibility. And only two months to prepare everything! I can understand that Aragorn is eager to have his lady with him after such a long time. But he does have no understanding at all of what the arrangement of a royal wedding means, especially so close to the king's return to the throne and the victory against the Enemy. I shouldn't even be here right now, there's so much to do!"
Explained like that it actually made sense to me. "Then why are you here? If you are so busy? Is there anything I could help you with?"
She grinned at me. "No, dear, thank you for your offer. But there is something I need to help you with."
"Me?" I looked at her, astonished. What was she talking about?
"Clothes. You will need an appropriate wardrobe. I am taking you to the best dressmaker in all of Gondor. You have to be suitably attired. Though it is appropriate to wear trousers, their cut and their fabric should reflect your standing."
I blushed. I knew that my clothes had seen better times. "But," I objected and my cheeks grew very hot with embarrassment. "But… Míriël, I don't have any money. I can't –"
"You don't have to, Lothíriel. I have offered to help you and I mean it. Everything will be paid for. It is my gift for you. And now close your mouth, smile at me and say 'thank you'. We have a lot to do today."
I closed my mouth.
I smiled at her, thinking once again that I was truly blessed in my friends.
Then I opened my mouth again. "Thank you, Míriël. Thank you with all my heart!"
The dressmaker's shop was filled to the bursting point with all kinds of fabrics.
There were fabrics in all the colours of the rainbow and in every imaginable pattern and texture. The shop belonged to a tall, silver haired woman with bright grey eyes and a thin nose.
She had three girls working for her who jumped at her every nod.
She took one look at me and raised her left eyebrow. "You are the lady of the Fellowship, aren't you?"
Míriël smiled and gave me a little push to step forwards. "Yes, this is the Lady Lothíriel," she said. "Lothíriel, this is Lady Darla of the Golden Scissors. Darla, my Lothíriel needs a complete new wardrobe. Most especially she will need a gown for the King's wedding."
Lady Darla sighed. "Míriël, you ask the impossible, as always. Do you know how many gowns I have to finish already for the wedding?"
The dressmaker was already back to scrutinizing me with a deepening frown on her face.
"You lost quite a lot of weight, didn't you? You are much too thin. You spent many hard days on the road, didn't you?"
I nodded. Although I had not minded losing a little bit of weight – which woman on earth would mind that? – I did not like the way my womanly curves had virtually disappeared during the last months.
Darla looked back at Míriël. "There's no sense in making a new wardrobe for her now, Míriël. She has the look of a woman with lovely curves, though she's not much to look at right now. With the strain of the war behind her, she will hopefully get back her figure. It would be a waste of time and fabric to fashion a whole wardrobe for her now, only to have to replace it in a year. Perhaps three dresses and three outfits with trousers and tunics? I heard that the King of Rohan is going to betroth her, is that true?"
I only gaped at her. I had already been surprised that the dressmaker had known at a glance just who I was, but how could she have heard about Éomer?
Fama volat, the little voice of logic commented in my brain. You need no tabloids for gossip to spread.
Míriël only grinned. "Well, Éomer King has asked me to allow the Lady Lothíriel to accompany his sister to Edoras for a visit."
Darla nodded with satisfaction. "Then she will need four outfits with trousers. One in leather for riding. Now, my lady, if you would undress, please, so that I can take your measures?"
I gulped. I had never been to a dressmaker before. On earth there was no way I could afford custom-made clothing. I felt absolutely awkward to undress in front of this keen eyed, old woman. But as I had no choice, and I knew that I needed new clothes, I swallowed down my excitement and undressed. It was not bad. She did not say anything else about my figure. She did not comment on the scars. But I did hear Míriël gasp when she saw the scars I carried from the kidnapping by the orcs. They were not that bad. But they were still fairly new and pink with the healing flesh. I was happy when Darla was finished with taking the measures and I could dress again.
"Well, that's it," the dressmaker said, making a last note in her ledger. "I hope that everything will be ready in the middle of June. The dress for the King's wedding might take a little longer. It depends on how many girls I will be able to get as aids. But it will be finished in time. I promise."
"You are a true jewel among the dressmakers," Míriël said, her voice filled with honest admiration.
Darla laughed. "That's what you say every time, my dear. But thank you for your custom. It will be a pleasure to make the young lady shine."
She smiled at me. I blinked in surprise. I? Shine? Up until now I had been content to try looking pretty.
"Thank you, Lady Darla," I said politely.
We took our leave and walked back up to the Citadel. Míriël had several meetings arranged for the afternoon concerning the upcoming wedding, and I still wanted to visit Éowyn.
I found Éowyn in a suite of rooms in the royal apartments. When she saw me, she hurried towards me, giving me a quick hug.
"Where have you been all day? I am bored to bits! I wanted to go with the hunters, but Éomer told me to stay here. He says it's still too dangerous. But HE may go. That's entirely unfair."
"Dangerous? Why?" My heart sped up.
"Oh, not for him, silly. But there might still be orcs and things about where they are going today. Men! Pah!"
That was not exactly a comforting answer. But as there was nothing I could do about it, I answered her first question. "Lady Míriël took me to her dressmaker."
Éowyn gasped. "To the famous Darla of the Golden Scissors? My, you lucky girl! There is no finer dressmaker in Rohan and Gondor! And she will take no new customers since forever. Well, I guess she will make an exception for the Queen. But for you! You are really lucky! I'm envious. And the best thing is, it is said that the Lady Darla is not at all fuzzy about trousers. You know, some of the noble ladies' dressmakers are. If they had their way, we would spend our days stitching and hiding under a veil. How was it? Pray tell!"
Darla must be really special, I thought, if her name could make Éowyn talk about dresses.
I felt a warm glow of gratefulness spread inside of me. I was truly, truly blessed in my friends.
"I am to have four outfits with trousers," I explained. "And one of them leather, for riding. And three dresses. She won't make any more, because she thinks I will regain weight during the next year."
"And so you should! You might even look like a Queen when you get your curves back."
Looking down at her own slight figure, she sighed. "Not much chance there for me," she added.
"But you are beautiful," I objected.
Éowyn shrugged. "I don't really care. It is much more important what you do with your life than how you look. Did you know that Faramir will be made the Prince of Ithilien tomorrow? That is a lot of responsibility. And it's a dangerous fiefdom, too. There are still many dark creatures roaming the eastern mountains. Do you think he will allow me to lead my own company?"
I looked at Éowyn's blazing eyes. Her strong, slender figure. Her arm was much better. Merry had told me that she was already beginning to exercise with her shield again.
"I don't really see how he could stop you," I said finally.
She smiled then, a bright and beautiful smile. "No, he couldn't, you are right. And the most wonderful thing is, I believe he would not, will not, either. I believe he will let me be."
Éowyn stood in a bright beam of sunlight. The stern, pale woman I had met in Edoras at the beginning of March was gone. Now Éowyn's eyes were sparkling with hope for a life that would make her happy and content. She was beautiful and smart and brave. She would be a great leader of any company. A shield maiden in the true sense of the meaning.
Of course Faramir would let her be.
He would be a fool to try to change her, to try to cage her in.
And Faramir was no fool.
He would let her be.
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.