55. Party and Prayer
I sat with Éowyn in a corner of the Hall of Merethrond. Aragorn and Arwen had just withdrawn to their sleeping quarters, followed by the high lords of Gondor. We had acquired a jug of wine and were waiting for the lords to return.
I grinned at Éowyn. "Cheers!"
I raised my glass to her.
She blushed, but raised her glass in return. "The bride!"
Then she blushed even more. "Do you think she knows about… umph?"
I felt my own cheeks grow hot. Would Arwen know about…She was a few thousand years old.
She should know about… But her mother had been gone for a long time.
Suddenly a mad giggle bubbled up inside of me. "Well, if she doesn't know about… umph… now, she will know about it shortly!"
Éowyn snorted her wine at me. "Oh, Valar, I hope they have thought of that blood."
Then a clarion sounded. A clarion! I ask you! How embarrassing can losing your virginity get? Anyway, the clarion sounded, and the high lords of Gondor came back into the Hall of Merethrond. And sure enough, Prince Imrahil carried a white bed sheet. He walked up to the dais of the throne and unfurled it like a great banner. A little bit off the centre of the sheet, to the right-hand side was a small red spot.
Cheers and whistles and clapping greeted the proof of the newly consummated marriage of the King of Gondor. Prince Imrahil folded up the sheet and gave it to a servant. Then he raised a huge golden goblet in a toast. "The King, the Queen, their first heir!"
Everyone jumped up, raised their glasses, mugs and goblets and echoed that toast. In another wave of cheering, yelling, whistling and clapping, the lords and ladies sat back down. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Elladan and Elrohir sitting on a bench with Haldir and Legolas. They wore a thoroughly disgusted look on their beautiful elvish faces and were glaring at the lords who had cheered a little too wholeheartedly in their close vicinity.
"Oh, my," I said. "I hope that was a fake, or Arwen can't have had much fun."
A strange gargling sound issued from Éowyn. As I looked at my friend, I saw that she was desperately trying to swallow her wine while laughing out loud at the same time.
Then my heart skipped a beat as I saw Éomer walking towards our table from the other end of the hall. Éowyn shook her head. "Dearly as I love my brother, I don't understand what it is that's gotten you sighing over him in that manner."
I shrugged. "I wouldn't know where to begin, did you ask me to list the things that fascinate me about your brother. And I am sure you are more interested in devising such a list to honour the qualities of one Lord Steward Faramir, aren't you?"
Luckily, before Éowyn could come up with a suitable follow up to this, Éomer had reached our table. "Two lovely ladies sitting all on their own? What a sad sight this is! May I sit down and share a glass of wine with you?" Éomer asked, but he looked more at me than at his sister. The wine and the excitement of the day made me feel all dizzy and light-headed. I had seen Éomer today only at a distance and for very short moments. "We would be happy of your company, my lord Éomer."
"My lady Lothíriel," he answered in his velvety murmur.
"Don't you two tire of that game?" Éowyn asked irritably.
Éomer grinned at her as he sat down beside me and took my hand under the table as unobtrusively as possible. "Never," he said and caressed the back of my hand with his thumb.
I gasped lightly. Oh, how I wanted…
Somehow I managed to smile at him. "Never," I agreed. Then I tried for an impish grin. "Éomer," I whispered.
A bright smile spread across his face. He raised his eyebrows. "Lothíriel," he answered.
Éowyn made a gagging noise.
"Stop that, léofest sweostor min," Éomer said. "You are only in a bad mood because your betrothed-to-be isn't at your side. But lo! I come to you as the harbinger of good news! Faramir's duty to observe the proceedings of the wedding are almost over, and he promised me to come hither as soon as he has made adequate security arrangements for the King's and Queen's sleeping quarters… close enough to protect them, far enough away from… er… the scene… to grant the royal couple the desired privacy."
"Then the blood was a fake?" Éowyn asked in a low voice.
Éomer blushed only a little. I saw a twinkle in his eyes that suggested he was thinking about pulling his sister's leg a little more, but in the end he answered honestly, "Of course it was. You don't think Aragorn would subject Arwen to…" The King of Rohan frowned, did not know how to continue and fell silent.
Unnoticed by us, the Lord Steward Faramir had approached and now slid onto the bench next to Éowyn. Éowyn's face lit up like the sun in the morning. Faramir smiled at her, his eyes sparkling with the blue hue of happiness. "Now the King and Queen will have their peace for the night. And tomorrow morning the Prince and I and the other members of the High Council will be presented with the real sheet." Faramir paused. "Or at least another sheet suitably prepared to satisfy old superstitions," he coughed lightly and continued, "Ahem, time-honoured customs of the realm."
Éowyn gasped. I giggled. The men grinned.
Then Éowyn sat up very straight and managed to say in a very prim voice. "And should my lords be talking about such things of carnal nature with ladies present?"
This time I snorted the wine all over the table.
When we finally stopped laughing, Éomer turned to me. "Will you do me the honour of a dance, my lady?"
I smiled at him. "If you show me how…"
His eyes grew darker and deeper as he looked at me with the softest of smiles tugging at his full lips. "You danced so beautifully on the Field of Cormallen."
I laughed softly. "That's not true. You did. I was simply dragged along."
"Oh, no, that is not true. Please, my lady, allow me to take you out under the stars and prove to you just how wonderfully you can dance!"
"Very well, my lord, you may try." I allowed him to draw me to my feet.
"But only dance, and nothing else," grumbled a voice from behind me. Sam had left the table of the hobbits and was following us outside.
Éomer smiled at the hobbit. "Rest assured, Master Perian, I will treat the Lady Lothíriel with the utmost respect."
Sam grinned up at Éomer. "I do, my lord, because I have promised the Lady Míriël, who is as kind as she is beautiful, that I will make sure of that."
"Then come along, Lord Samwise," Éomer answered, tightening the hold on my hand.
I squeezed his hand right back.
We left the Hall of Merethrond, and I sighed at the beauty of the night. The Milky Way spread in a thick silver ribbon through the sky above us, the full moon shed a cool, clear light on the white stones of Minas Tirith, making the city glow like a milky crystal. Myriads of stars were blazing in a truly black sky. For a moment I wondered if I had ever seen stars and sky that way on earth. But earth and its skies were so far away that no image or memory would come to me. All over the Citadel, the Tower of Ecthelion and the Place of the Fountains lanterns had been lit, which filled the area with a sparkling light, as if a thousand small stars had come down from the sky to shed their light on the celebration.
Éomer led me to the largest dance floor, which was set at the centre of the Embrasure.
As we entered the dance floor, the musicians – an orchestra from Dol Amroth – switched to a lively reel. Éomer drew me firmly against him, and off we were.
We danced the night away.
In the small hours of the night Éowyn and Éomer showed a gasping audience another Rohirric custom. Rohirrim do not only dance with their horses, they also dance with their swords.
What Éowyn and Éomer showed us was a sword fight turned into a dance, beautiful and deadly. I could not turn my eyes away, although I was gasping and shaking, whenever Éowyn's blade only narrowly missed Éomer's head or arms or legs, or when Éowyn only escaped Éomer's thrusts and lunges by a hair's breadth.
The music, mainly drums and fiddles went faster and faster and faster, until it was impossible to follow the movements of the blades. The blades were shimmering silver trails of light in the darkness.
Then, suddenly, with a deep roll of the drums, the music stopped.
Éowyn and Éomer were standing leaning against each other, left side against left side, their blades pointed straight ahead.
They were sweating, and their hair had burst from their braids, tumbling in damp curls about their faces, their eyes were shining, and they were smiling at each other, affectionate, friendly smiles. Although Éowyn was so much lighter in colour than her brother, there was no mistaking their shared blood as they stood at the centre of the dance floor with their swords raised in salute.
Then they stepped apart, sheathed their swords and bowed to each other. They were grinning happily as they returned to the side of the dance floor, where Faramir and I were waiting for them. Faramir poured large mugs of water for them. Éowyn greedily gulped the water down, then exhaled deeply. "I really have to practice more. You almost had me once or twice, this time."
"You're still one of the best, sweostor min," Éomer said, his voice filled with admiration. "There are not many who can keep up that kind of pace."
"For the life of me, I could not do this," Faramir commented, refilling Éowyn's mug. I think he had gasped just as often as I had during this dangerous dance. Éowyn smiled at him. "I will teach you, if you want me to."
"And you, Lothíriel, would you like to learn that, too?"
I stared at Éomer and gulped nervously. "I think I will content myself with learning ordinary dances for the time being."
"I would make sure that no harm comes to you," he said and winked at me.
"And would you make sure that no harm comes to you either? That I would not accidentally skewer you?" I retorted.
"Oh, yes, I would," he assured me. "That wouldn't be much fun, would it?"
"No, it wouldn't," I gasped, disconcerted by his closeness, the wonderful male smell of his sweat mingled with some kind of spicy perfume and the scent of leather from his tunic.
Oh, how I wanted…
Someone cleared his throat. It was an effort to turn away from Éomer. Sam was glaring at the man. Éomer did not look really pleased at this interruption. Éowyn sniggered.
Oh, how I wanted to wring someone's neck right now.
We returned to the Hall of Merethrond for a bowl of hot, spicy soup and another jug of red wine shared between us. As the night went by, we found ourselves at a table with Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas and Gimli and the hobbits, talking about the past, the present and the future until the sun shone in brilliant colours of red and pink and golden through the high windows of the Hall of Merethrond.
I never knew how I returned to our white villa in the sixth circle of the city. But that was where I woke early in the evening of the first day of July, 3019.
I woke with a slight headache, and sadly, alone.
I washed and dressed in one of the outfits of a trouser, shirt and tunic the Lady Darla had fashioned for me. The clothes fit perfectly, and they were held in beautiful green and golden-brown colours that did wonders for the shade of my hair and the green hints in the general muddiness of my eyes. I tied my hair into a tight bun at the nape of my neck. I really would have to cut my hair some time soon. Or at least a part of it. No matter what was considered fashionable in either Gondor or Rohan, it was growing simply too long and too thick to really do anything with it anymore. From somewhere outside I heard the faint sound of singing and music. As I entered the living room, I found Legolas and Gimli in front of the fireplace. The fire had been rebuilt and was burning merrily. Outside the sun was already sinking towards the western horizon. For a moment I stared at the elf and the dwarf.
I thought I had seen them sitting and talking exactly like that when I had finally gone to bed in the morning. But my memory was kind of hazy.
"Have you two been to bed at all?" I asked finally.
"No, my lady," Gimli said cheerfully. "Anything under three days and three nights of feasting and frolicking is not a wedding, but a funeral. Tírithel's on the dinner table; get it and sit down with us."
Legolas only smiled.
I did not need to be told twice. I took a large cup of tírithel, added an almost indecent amount of honey and sat down in an easy chair next to Gimli. I curled up in a comfortable cross-legged position. "So, what's up? Any news from Aragorn and Arwen?"
Gimli sniggered. To my surprise Legolas coloured in a bright pink shade, right up to the tips of his pointy ears.
"My spies," Gimli said, clearing his throat and pointedly ignoring the murderous looks thrown at him by Legolas, "my spies have told me that around eleven o'clock this morning, Aragorn and Arwen emerged for a short time from their quarters, looking wan and pale. They were seen taking a large breakfast with lots of eggs and passion fruits. Upon having consumed this breakfast, they returned to their sleeping quarters and have not been seen again since. But my informants have let me know that the guards of the royal apartments have asked for ear plugs."
I burst out laughing. Legolas glared at me. For the first time I wondered if the Prince of Mirkwood was possibly still a virgin. He was not married, that much I knew. And, wait – among the elves sexual intercourse sealed the marriage. No sex without marriage, that was their custom, wasn't it?
No wonder he blushed like a school-boy at Gimli's lewd jokes.
"Well, it's time Aragorn gets a little of this and a little of that and some relaxation," I commented.
"Not too much relaxation, though," Gimli put in. "The Lady Arwen would not like that, I think."
Legolas clenched his teeth. "You should not speak so disrespectfully of the Queen."
"We did not want to imply any disrespect, Legolas. It's only… Humans are like that… easy prey for primitive desires," I could not continue and started laughing again, Gimli hollering along with me.
Legolas raised his eyebrows at us. "And dwarves, too, apparently."
"Very primitive," Gimli admitted chuckling. "Really, Legolas, you should get yourself a bride one of these days."
The smile disappeared from the elf's face. A deep sadness shone in his eyes, mingled with a desperate, painful longing. "Not here, my friend Gimli. My days on these shores are numbered. Now there can be no more life built here for me, since I have heard the call of the sea."
Looking at his friend, all levity drained from the dwarf's face. "I'm sorry, Legolas."
The elf sighed. "That's alright. My heart was never called by love. Perhaps some day in fair Aman my time will come."
I had only one thought about this. But I kept it a very, very small thought. Damn those interfering busy-bodies of Valar…
For a moment silence filled the room.
"Did anyone see Lord Elrond after whatever happened during the ceremony?"
I asked without looking at anyone.
"After the Valar withdrew their grace from the Lady Arwen, you mean?" Legolas asked. There was a distinct note of bitterness to his tone. Then I had not imagined it.
"Yes, that's what I mean," I replied. I could have stayed in a world where God for the most part is an abstract concept carried in your heart…
"No, I don't think so. He would not have wanted to mar the feast with his grief. He will have gone walking somewhere under the stars," Legolas answered.
Gimli did not say anything.
"Is there anything one could do to comfort him?" I asked the elf.
Legolas gave me a sad smile. "You have a kind heart, my lady Lothíriel. But no, here in Arda nothing will comfort the Lord Elrond anymore. However, he will not linger here for much longer. Methinks the ship is already on its way to bear him hence… taking the Straight Way across the tides of time towards Aman, the Blessed Realm. There he will be reunited with his wife, the Lady Celebrían, and all sorrow will be healed."
"Do you really believe that?" Gimli asked in his gruffest voice.
The dwarf did not seem to trust the Valar and their western paradise.
Legolas smiled at his friend. "Yes, Gimli, my doubting friend, I do believe that. Perhaps one day you will see that for yourself."
Gimli frowned at the elf. "Perhaps." He did not sound convinced.
I did not know what to think.
I was here for good, so I would have to come to terms with the Valar as my Gods, and the One, Eru Ilúvatar as the One God and Creator of all of Eä and Arda and Aman. I had not given that much thought, although I had for sure prayed more in Middle-earth than I had ever prayed on Earth. Back on Earth I had always liked the concept of Gods with actual faces and bodies taking a real interest in your life. Now I was not so sure.
Although Arwen and Aragorn were happy in their shared love, the abrupt way the Valar had taken away her immortality and elvish grace yesterday seemed cruel and inhuman to me.
I also could not understand why they did not want the elves in Middle-earth, where we humans lived. Were the Secondborn so much inferior to their elvish children in the Valar's opinion? And what of the love some elves might feel for Arda, where they might have been born or at least lived and been happy for thousands of years? Or the friendships that existed between elves and men or elves and dwarves? Did those feelings count for nothing?
I remembered what Gandalf had told me, when I had asked him about Eru and the Valar.
"Eru takes the long range view of things, and the Valar, well, they cannot understand the theme of the Ainulindalë that created the children of Ilúvatar, either the Firstborn or the Secondborn.
I had replied, "And that is meant to comfort me how?"
Gandalf had smiled and replied, "That was not intended to comfort you."
I hope Eru knows what the Valar are doing.
I hope Eru knows what He is doing.
And I hope they don't mind me asking stupid questions and being annoyed at them.
Eru and all the Valar, please don't take offence.
I'm still new here, and don't know how things are done around here.
Perhaps it was only my imagination.
But I thought I heard a female voice inside my head that was not at all like the obnoxious little voice of reason and conscience that is sometimes arguing my actions.
It was a very bright and very clear voice. Not the kind of voice I would think of as a figment of imagination.
"We never take offence at compassion, Lothíriel."
Perhaps that was the voice of a Vala.
But if it was, why couldn't it – he – she – have told me something about my future, or given me some advice about how to handle things here and now, for example how to tell Éomer King where I come from and that I am not exactly a virgin?
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.