64. Maybe, Maybe Not
We took our time returning to Edoras.
In three days most of the guests who had accompanied us to Edoras would leave. Elrond and his sons and their entourage would return to Imladris, Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn and their people would go back to Lórien, and the Hobbits would travel the long way to the distant Shire. Gandalf would accompany them at least to the borders of the Shire, so they should get there safely.
But it also meant that the next few days would be busy. We wanted to spend as much time with our friends as possible before we had to say goodbye-especially since some of these goodbyes would be forever, and even the others would be for a long time.
Additionally, a session of the Council of the High Lords of Rohan was planned for the following day. And, to add to Éomer's already busy schedule, the Lords Grimsir, Berig and Eutharich had called for yet another Thing to convene. That in itself would not be so bad. Éomer could use the Thing to set plans in motion the way he wanted them to go. But that would take careful preparation. Or in other words: a lot of work for my betrothed.
Therefore we walked the horses back, intent on enjoying what time together we had, keeping close to each other in the dim twilight. But I had been right about the weather, the clouds were dispersing. Above the plains of the Mark the sky was already clear again. Only above the mountains and the foothills the clouds were still thick and grey. Tomorrow the sun would shine again. So we made our way back to Edoras without fear of rain and slowly, looking at each other every other moment with soft lingering smiles. On ordinary horses, we could not have accomplished that ride without mishap, so engrossed were we in each other, so much strayed our attention away from the path. But Hiswa and Mimi were Mearas, and very fine ones at that. They were very understanding of their riders.
But at last we reached the Royal Stables. Éomer dismounted, and this time he bade a groom to come over and take care of our horses. Éomer reached for my hand and drew me close. "I would that we announce the betrothal this very night. I could not, and would not, keep it secret anyway, filled with the joy of it as I am-but the matter of my marriage is bound to come up in the Council tomorrow, and I would ask you to spare me needless discussions of possible matches. Because for me there is only one match, my love. The lady who wears my humble ring on her beautiful hand."
I have to admit that I had to hold out my hand and look at the ring time and time again on our way back to Edoras-and every time I did so, I felt a huge foolish smile on my face. "Everything to ease your day, Éomer," I whispered and laid my head against his shoulders. "Even if it will still be a year and a day until my nights are eased."
He chuckled at that, a low rumble in his chest that made me shiver against him. How I would love to lie naked across his chest and listen to that, with my ear pressed against his chest. He kissed me behind the ear and murmured in his deepest, most erotic of voices, "Don't even mention those long and lonely nights, my dear, or I might do something both of us would regret."
I don't mind a little regret now and again, I thought. But I did not object, only sighed softly. How love-struck people can sigh! Softly, hotly, desperately-we shared sighs of desire and sighs of closeness and sighs of laughter... I should compose a poem about the way you can sigh when you are in love and happy with it.
"How are you going to announce our betrothal, Éomer? Is there some Rohirric ritual that I should know about beforehand?" Arwen's wedding had made me cautious.
Éomer grinned at me and shook his head. "No; it will be simple. Much the way it went with Faramir and Éowyn. Only one thing-Lord Grimsir will announce it. It is his due as the oldest lord of Rohan. Although I would much prefer Aragorn to join our hands before all, that isn't possible. The affront would be too much."
I sighed (again). "There's nothing to be done about that. I understand."
And I did understand. Much as Éomer loved me, and I knew that he did, his love for his realm and his people would always take precedence to the love we shared.
That's what you get when you fall in love with a king. Political headaches most every day. This king-and-queen business is not at all the way it is described in those damn fairy tales.
I should sue the brothers Grimm...
Lord Grimsir was not amused.
I was glad that we had not gone to face him on our own, but accompanied by the Prince of Dol Amroth, Lady Míriël, Gandalf and, last but not least, King Elessar of Gondor. Our company did not seem to improve Lord Grimsir's mood. But it did reassure me. And it ensured that Lord Grimsir clenched his teeth and kept his comments to hissed "Very well's" and "Congratulations, your highness".
They told him that I had been summoned by Gandalf to travel from a distant realm to give aid to the fellowship. That I would be adopted by the Prince this fall, and that King Elessar felt personally responsible for my fate.
I think I would have preferred them to lie... and perhaps say that I was really the daughter of the Prince of Dol Amroth... but I knew all too well that such lies have an unfortunate tendency to make it to the tabloids, or the gossip lane, respectively. It is a good thing, however, that no one, absolutely no one dares question a white wizard and the King of Arnor and Gondor.
From a purely formal point of view there could be no objection to me as a suitable wife for Éomer-because of the adoption. Being a heroine of the famous Fellowship was another perk. But Grimsir's frown made me realise that I would do well to produce an heir to the throne as quickly as possible once Éomer and I were married, just to keep the bloodhounds off my trail for good.
As far as I knew, only Gandalf, Éomer, Faramir, Éowyn, Aragorn, Arwen, Sorcha, Imrahil and Míri had all the details of my background. Not exactly a whole lot of people, and all of them extremely trustworthy, but quite a list. And there is this old rule about how anything known to more than one person will get out. There is always a servant who listened when he shouldn't have. Or a neighbour. Or whoever.
Perhaps Gandalf could cast a spell to prevent any details from leaking out? I wrinkled my nose thoughtfully. Would he? I sighed. Probably not. Back to plan B. Marry and get pregnant with a boy that will cause amnesia among even the grimmest lords of Rohan and Gondor.
When we had eaten dinner, Lord Grimsir rose and walked to the dais of the throne of Rohan. He cleared his throat. The hall fell silent. "Only yesterday we were blessed to do homage unto the new king of Rohan. Tonight it is my pleasure to announce that even the very first day of the reign of Éomer King is blessed indeed. Tidings of joy I bring to the people of the Rohirrim. Hear then, my lords and my ladies, fair guests: Éomer, King of Rohan, asks that Lothíriel, Princess of Dol Amroth, should be his wife. What says her father to this suit, my lord Prince of Dol Amroth?"
Prince Imrahil walked up to the dais. It was quite a sight, the darkest and the fairest of the lords of Rohan and Gondor side by side. "I, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, say to this suit that the match has my favour. Éomer, King of Rohan, has asked that Lothíriel, Princess of Dol Amroth, should be his wife, and she grants this full willing."
Grimsir looked positively grim at that. Probably he had a daughter of the right age back at home. But he continued, "Then they shall be troth plighted before you all, to be wed in a year and a day, by the will of all the Valar and Eru."
Éomer walked up to the front. Éowyn, who was sitting next to me, gave me a small push in the same general direction that almost made me stumble and fall down. But only almost. I reached the dais and Éomer without any further mishap. As I looked at Éomer's face, his warm, dark eyes and his calm smile, all my misgivings about politics and gossip disappeared into a dizzy feeling of pure bliss. Éomer held out his hand towards me, and I took it without a moment's hesitation. He turned me around to face the hall and raised our joined hands high, for all to see.
Applause and cheers rang out, and then everyone was up and lifting their glasses to us, crying: "Éomer and Lothíriel, Lothíriel and Éomer, bless them, bless them."
When I woke the next morning, I felt strange. Strange, because I did not feel any different at all. I know this is silly. I am old enough to know that such things do not change us from one hour, one day to the next. But somehow I had imagined that I would feel different, being engaged to the king.
Well, something was different that day. As I had thought, the bad weather had cleared away during the night, and a bright summer sun bathed all of Rohan in a warm golden light. The stained glass windows of my room made the opposite wall sparkle with all the colours of the rainbow.
At the end of the rainbow you may find your greatest treasure...
I held up my left hand. Green and gold, the exquisite amber pearls shimmered in the soft light that filtered through the round window panes. Silver, the elaborately braided hairs that held the pearls glittered around my finger. It was a beautiful ring. I wondered when Éomer had made it. It must have taken hours to create this intricate work of art. A happy sigh filled me. He had made this ring with his own hands. He had made this ring while he thought of me. He had filled every tiny braid of it with his love for me.
A magical ring if ever there was such a thing!
As I washed and dressed swiftly, my mind was already on the plans for the day. Not that I had many plans. Éomer would be tied up in the Council for most of the day, and the evening we would spend with our guests.
My heart skipped a beat. It was the first time that I had actually thought of anything as "our" concerning Éomer and me.
Perhaps there was something different about me after all...
I had breakfast with Arwen, Éowyn, Faramir and the Hobbits. Afterwards the others went to have a look at some new Meara-foals. I went down to the Stables with them and checked on Mimi, but I did not feel up to more horse talk that morning, so I turned back to the palace.
The sun was shining and Edoras looked bright and beautiful. And in the middle of all this joy and happiness I discovered that I was finally ready to face the one question that still weighed heavily on my heart.
For a long time I had not been sure whom I should ask that question.
For a still longer time I had not been sure if I should ask the question.
Now I had finally reached the conclusion that I owed someone to ask this question.
Later that day I found Lady Galadriel sitting on her own in the rose garden of Edoras. She smiled at me and beckoned to me to join her. My heartbeat quickened. Was it fate that I met her here today, alone, so that I could ask my question in privacy?
I sat down beside the lady. The roses were in full bloom. Here and there a crystal clear drop of dew still glittered on a glowing petal. The air was filled with the humming of bees. Some yellow butterflies fluttered to the side of the pavilion where Éowyn and I had made friends with Arwen back in July.
"That was a kind deed you did, Lothíriel, to share your tears with my granddaughter. In lives of many thousands of years, dealing with emotions becomes a difficult and private endeavour. But you cannot live a mortal life like that." Bright turquoise eyes turned to me. Today the lady wore her hair open, and it flowed in a great golden stream across her shoulders and down her back, spilling almost to the ground behind the wooden bench where we were sitting.
Mind reading is uncanny. But for once I was glad that she could do this. I looked at the Elvish lady, hoping she could discern the question in my eyes.
She inclined her head. "I do see your question in your eyes, Lothíriel. I have seen it there for weeks now. I would advise you not to ask it. Is it really necessary for you to know the answer to your question? Whatever the answer is, you cannot do anything about it."
I gulped. Would I? I knew what the answer was that I longed for, what I wanted to hear. Did Galadriel's warning mean that this was the one answer that I would not get? I felt my heart in my mouth, and my palms grew cold and clammy as I pressed them against my thighs. I knew that I would not be able to do anything about it. But I felt that I had to know. I thought that I owed the question to someone.
But would I be able to go on, if the answer was what I feared?
"I don't know, my lady. But if I don't ask you now, I will never be able to ask this question, isn't that right?" My voice was a little shaky.
Galadriel gave me a sad smile. "We will meet once more, Lothíriel. But there won't be time for such questions then, so yes, if you truly need to ask this particular question, you have to ask it now."
I nodded and allowed the silence to grow between us and tried to calm my thoughts by looking at the roses and the butterflies of the garden. It was so beautiful and peaceful here. And the beauty and peace of the garden should fill my heart, too. After all, for me the future looked just like that at the moment, bright, beautiful, peaceful and filled with love.
But there was this question. This question I felt I owed to someone.
Was this my future at all?
Or had I taken someone else's future and made it my own?
I did not look at the Lady Galadriel as I asked my question. "Did Lothíriel die because of me? Did she die so that I could come here and fall in love with Éomer?"
The Lady shook her head. "You did not only come here to fall in love, Lothíriel. That much I know, though the deeper thoughts of the Valar are hidden from me, especially here in Arda."
I blushed, feeling ashamed. "But did she die because I came here? Does the name Lothíriel being linked with Éomer in the books mean that a Lothíriel was meant to marry Éomer, and, that if I had not come, she would have lived and loved him and married him?"
"You ask about freedom and determination, Lothíriel. From what Gandalf told me, many wise men and women of the world of your birth have pondered this question over the course of millennia. They could not come up with an answer. Neither could the istari of Middle-earth. Of course, the little Lothíriel of Dol Amroth was already dead for many years before you met Gandalf on that hill near Erlangen." Galadriel looked at me, her eyes calm and deep as a southern sea on a sunny day.
"But the timelines between the worlds are not really in sync, aren't they? Well, time here and there does not seem to be the same, at least. Or perhaps you can travel across time and space. After all, the books were already there, although the things of the books had not happened yet here. I left my world in August and came here in September," I objected, although I wanted to believe so much that I was not responsible for the death of the little Lothíriel.
"Did I kill her?" I asked, my voice breaking.
"Oh, no, little one," Galadriel took my hand and squeezed it comfortingly. "You did not. Her life and death were always in the hands of Eru."
"But would she have lived, had I not come? Would Eru have had her live if I had not come? Because according to the books she must have!" Anguish constricted my throat.
Galadriel sighed. Her eyes were filled with sorrow as she looked at me. "Maybe," she said finally. "Maybe not."
For a long moment I sat in silence, the words echoing in my ears.
I rose to my feet and bowed to the Lady Galadriel. It was an effort to speak. I felt strangely cold and numb. Every movement was a struggle. The words I wanted to say would not come to my mind at all, at first. Finally, I managed to open my mouth and after another moment, I was able to speak. But my voice was hoarse and shaky. "Thank you, my Lady. I... I have to go and think... about... things... now."
The lady smiled her beautiful sad smile at me again and nodded her acquiescence. But then she reached out and took my hands once more. I think she must have put some spell or blessing on me because some of the numbness and pain left me, and a feeling of peace and warmth returned to the core of my soul. "Go and think, Lothíriel. But as you think, do not forget that the paths of your life also lie in Eru's hands. You did not come only to fall in love with Éomer, though he needs your love and your knowledge very much. Love and knowledge the little Lothíriel, should she have lived, perhaps could not have given him."
Then the colour of Galadriel's eyes deepened to an almost amethyst hue. I felt as if I was bathed in a light of blues and violets. "Be at peace, Lothíriel."
Afterwards I wandered through the streets of Edoras for long hours, lost in thought.
Was everything predestined from the beginning? Had my every step been decided even before I drew my first breath? I did not think so. It had been my choice to run away from my studies, to try and find a place where I really belonged.
I had stepped into that rainbow by my own free will.
But nevertheless... had Eru and the Valar known I would decide like that even before I was born?
Had my choice been the reason for the little Lothíriel's death? Or would she have died anyway?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Freedom. Determination. Responsibility.
Sometimes there are no easy answers. Sometimes there are no answers at all.
I would have to learn to live with the answer the most far-sighted elf of Middle-earth had been able to give me. I would have to learn to live with the knowledge that the last answers truly lie alone with Eru Himself.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I promised myself that I would go to the little Lothíriel's grave when I was back at Dol Amroth. I would take her flowers, and I would pray for her. I was not sure whether you did this in Middle-earth.
But I did not think that the Valar or Eru would mind. And I knew that I wanted to thank my dead sister for my happiness and wish her the same, wherever she was now, an angel of bliss in Eru's hallowed halls, or back in Middle-earth in another body and with another life to live.
I had been brave enough to ask my question. Now I had to be brave enough to live with the answer I had been given. And I would be brave enough. Whatever the real answer was, wherever the little Lothíriel's soul was, she deserved no less than my best.
I had owed her the question.
Now I owed her my life.
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.