16. A Betrothal
Lothíriel leaned back against the short terrace wall of the Dol Amroth townhouse behind her and stifled a yawn. It had been a long and emotionally exhausting day. She had far too little sleep the previous night. Sitting most of the day in the crowded, slow-paced assembly at the Citadel and then overseeing the preparations for a large dinner party sapped whatever remaining energy she might otherwise have had.
The coronation festivities throughout the City itself continued, although at a somewhat slower pace. Shortly after dinner, as soon as the sky had darkened sufficiently, a fireworks exhibition had drawn her guests to the wall of the terrace facing the expanse of sky over the River. While enjoying the exploding white lights greatly, Merry and Pippin commented that they did not come close to equaling the magical shows that Gandalf the Grey had entertained the Shire with from time to time.
To those who could interrupt their compulsive voicing of "ohs" and "ahs" long enough to listen, Mithrandir himself explained that the brilliant colors of his legendary pyrotechnic displays were not the result of magic but a simple combination of various metallic salts added to the explosive materials. When asked how he created the fanciful shapes and figures the Periannath were so fond of describing, he merely smiled slyly and shrugged. "Professional secret," he said, winking at Frodo and Sam.
The urbane inhabitants of Minas Tirith, much like the simpler folk of the Shire, had a great fondness for fireworks. However, as several commented within Lothíriel's hearing, it had been many years since the City of Kings had seen a display nearly as magnificent. Yet, they insisted, it had been long years, indeed, since there had been such a reason to celebrate.
Lothíriel wanted to say that even in the darkest of days, despite the threat of Sauron and exposure to Haradrim raids or outright attack, the people of Dol Amroth had continued all of their traditional festivals. She decided it would be an ill-chosen remark in a crowd containing so many natives of Minas Tirith. How could she fully comprehend the effects of living, with no hope of respite, so close to Mordor and to the relentless sights and smells of the smoke rising from Orodruin? She had always had the choice of returning to the Sea, or staying away from the City entirely.
When the show was over and her guests drifted back to whatever they had been doing before. She found herself again in the company of Éowyn and Faramir.
"So, Lothíriel," Éowyn asked, "What is this trip you contemplate?"
"Éowyn, I am still uncertain if it will actually happen. My liege lord is apparently interviewing everyone to quiet his remaining doubts as to my suitability," she said with a small unrepentant laugh.
"Then you will come with us to Edoras? Will you continue on to Dwimordene and, from there, return to the White City with Aragorn's espoused bride? What an adventure! I envy you," Éowyn said. "Of course, Éomer will support the idea and I suspect your father is unaware of its potential pitfalls. Did Aragorn speak with you, Faramir?"
"Yes. I said that I thought Éomer and Lothíriel should decide. I also told Aragorn that I believed Éomer would want her to go," Faramir said.
"Thank you, cousin. I am grateful, especially since I realize that you may have your own reservations. Just remember that I did not ask for the complications that apparently are common knowledge among the lot of you," Lothíriel said with resignation.
"Relax, Lothíriel, surely you know by now that there is not, nor ever will be, a surfeit of privacy in your life. We all have had the most intimate details of our lives discussed. Is not that true, my love?" Éowyn said.
"Yes, it is," Faramir said. Éowyn sympathetically laced her hand through the crook of Faramir's elbow and looked up into his face.
"Do not look so serious, my love. I already told the two of you that Éomer would not have wanted Lothíriel if she had been a bland, lackluster lump of a maid. When she comes to Rohan, she will have ample opportunity to discover some of his embarrassing little secrets," Éowyn stated bluntly.
Lothíriel was pondering whether she should be relieved or worried at that thought when Legolas approached them. She could not help but smile at the welcome sight of him. He took her hand with a short, graceful Elven bow.
"Faramir. Éowyn," he said in greeting. "Lothíriel, they are playing one of our songs. Will you come dance with me for a while? Éomer appears to be occupied and few are dancing tonight."
He nodded in the direction of Aragorn and Éomer who were still talking. Lothíriel noticed that only three couples were dancing at the opposite end of the terrace. She recognized one of the tunes that she and Legolas had danced to at the Coronation Ball.
"I suppose you will have an irrefutable response if I tell you I am too tired," Lothíriel complained without conviction.
Legolas smiled as he led her away. "You are young and Mortal. The time will come far too soon when you will have grown old and be forced to rest."
"Do not be so sure of yourself. I may be granted the lifespan of the most long-lived of the Númenoreans and then some. You are the one who enjoys pointing out that Elven blood runs strong in me," she laughed.
"I have learned in the short time that I have known you not to let anything you do surprise me," he said. Legolas put his hand on Lothíriel's shoulder and lightly squeezed, encircling her waist with his other arm, as they joined the dancing couples.
"You must be pleased at the plan for you to travel to Edoras and Lothlórien," he said, his lips close to her ear. "I envy you although I am happy to stay here for now. There is much to be done to restore and renew the City."
"The plans are not entirely certain as of yet," she answered.
"Ai, but they are. I just overheard Éomer insisting to Aragorn that he would not have you deprived of such an opportunity," Legolas said with a warm, wide smile, "And Aragorn agreed that you should go."
"You adorable scoundrel! That was why you wanted to dance. You could not wait to tell me. You, at least, are happy for me." she said delighted.
"I am very happy for you," he answered.
"Thank you. Now that you have told me, I must insist that I truly am too tired to dance. Come down to the other end of the terrace with me, near Aragorn and Éomer-not to interrupt them, just close enough so he can see me and not forget I exist. We can look at the stars. See how dark the sky is without any smoke or fumes and how bright the stars. I want to listen to you sing of Elbereth the Starkindler," Lothíriel said.
She took Legolas by the hand and led him to where they could look up at the sky, framed on one side by the towering magnificence of the Mount of Mindolluin and the lights of the descending levels of the City on the other. The evening star had risen and shone most brilliantly among the myriad of others shimmering in the clear dark sky. The sight was as welcome to her as the cloudless blue sky had been earlier in the day. The smoke has truly vanished, she thought.
"Which one would you like to hear?" Legolas asked, also admiring the heavens. "I recall the night before our engagement at the Morannon. I heard Elrohir and Elladan singing the one that begins: 'A Elbereth Gilthoniel, silivren penna míriel o menel aglar elenath!' We were exhausted, facing almost certain defeat, perhaps the end of all things, and their voices brought me hope."
"Yes. I can imagine its effect. It is by far the most beautiful of the ones that I know well. It always makes me think of the Midwinter's Eve festivals of my childhood on the beach in Dol Amroth," Lothíriel said.
"Somehow it strains my imagination to picture you as a pensive child gazing up at the stars. Are you certain you were not running in circles, squealing, and provoking other naughty children to chase you," he responded.
"Perhaps. Or even being swatted on the backside by my father and told to 'settle down' or I would be sent home with my nurse. But, do not change the subject. I would like to hear a song from your childhood. I have never heard any in the Silvan tongue. Or, if you know one of the Galadhrim . . . Think of it as helping me prepare for my trip," Lothíriel said.
"You are demanding." Legolas said.
"I admit. I am spoiled. The minstrels of Dol Amroth are without rival in all of Gondor," Lothíriel said. "But you sing better than the best of them. I do not want to squander this opportunity by hearing only songs that I know."
"Let me sing one of the Galadhrim. Our language is the nearly same, but their music is different, more magical in mood," he said.
The resonance and color of Legolas's tenor touched Lothíriel deeply. He completed three short verses and stopped.
"That was not right," he said. "My voice is not well-suited for the Galadhon style." He attempted the last verse in a slightly higher register and a clearer reedier voice.
O Elbereth Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.
Legolas ended with the slightest frown and comical wrinkling of his nose. Lothíriel laughed and grabbed his arm, thinking he was not only clever but funny.
"That was beautiful. But you made it look so painful," she said.
"Then you will have to close your eyes next time I try. But, I will not do it again soon. I think I gave myself a headache," he replied, massaging the bridge of his nose.
At the other end of the portico, Elladan and Elrohir stood together. Elrohir saw a stormy scowl suffuse his brother's face. He could not help but release a hearty sigh at the sight. He had hoped his brother's mood had improved with dinner and few glasses of wine. Elrohir followed Elladan's line of vision to find it fixed upon Legolas and Lothíriel.
"What is it now?" Elrohir asked.
"Humph. Look at her. If she thinks it will be easy to ensnare Legolas, she is wrong. No full-blooded Elf, not even a young one, will be as susceptible to her charms as I was," Elladan said.
His brother's self-absorption and nasty mood increasingly irritated Elrohir. He thought to remind him that Lothíriel had not sought his attention, but Elladan's anguished expression stopped him. It tempered his annoyance with concern. He had not seen his brother outwardly display as many flashes of emotion in nearly two yeni as he had witnessed in him over the last few days.
"Oh, that is lovely. He sings to her of the stars. Perhaps, I was wrong and he intends to seduce her. Presumptuous Elf. She needs more than a handsome profile and a pretty voice," Elladan said. Elrohir had enough and could no longer control his aggravation.
"What has come over you? How can you say that our good friend has only a handsome face and a pleasing voice to recommend him? After he rode fearlessly with us into the Paths of the Dead and guarded Estel's back for months when we could not! I have lost patience with you, brother. I presume they seek only to watch the stars and that speaking of the trip to Lórien leads him to sing her a song of the Galadhrim. You project your own unconsidered motives onto him," Elrohir said.
"I am sure you are right. That was stupid comment I made about Legolas. You know that I admire and love him," Elladan said, rubbing his temples wearily.
"Shhh. Listen. Did you hear that last verse? That was an impressive imitation of the Galadhon style," Elrohir said.
"I hope it gave him a headache," Elladan said. He drew a long sigh, looked sideways at his brother, as though expecting further rebuke. None was forthcoming. He added, "I need another drink," and headed toward the doorway.
"Make it a large one," Elrohir called after him.
As Éomer stood with Aragorn, he was acutely aware of the presence nearby of Legolas and Lothíriel. He and Aragorn conversed desultorily of the number who would be in the party leaving for Rohan, possible routes, and necessary supplies. Éomer knew that he would meet with Elfhelm tomorrow, make serious plans, and then consult with Aragorn and Faramir again. But tonight they were simply two comrades speaking of these practical matters not in order to resolve them, but because these were in the forefront of their minds and they were too tired and relaxed to talk of anything substantial. Aragorn drew slowly on his pipe and Éomer took a drink from the tankard of ale he held.
He heard Legolas say, "Now, you try it." The Elf's speaking voice, unlike his singing voice was soft and low.
"I do not think I remember the words," Lothíriel said. Legolas sang the first line of the verse he had just sung, in a language that Éomer had not understood, this time in his own voice. Lothíriel repeated it after him in a surprisingly deep alto and nearly perfect imitation of Legolas.
"Good," the Elf said. "You have a good ear."
"Do not tease me, Laiqalasse." Lothíriel said. The sound of her laughter was clear, untroubled.
"Did you hear that?" Éomer said. "What is that nickname she called him? High Elven? Something leaf?"
"Laiqalasse, the name of a lord of the city of Gondolin. It translates roughly the same as Legolas in the Common Tongue: green leaf," Aragorn answered. "Your betrothed is a bit of a scholar."
"Apparently. Imrahil's children are all well schooled and well read. I was fascinated with the story of Gondolin as a lad, but I do not remember a Laiqalasse," Éomer said. "Glorfindel was my hero."
"Laiqalasse is not one of major figures in most of the recountings. You may soon meet Glorfindel of Gondolin, now of Imladris. I am certain he will accompany my father and Arwen to the City," said Aragorn.
"Whew! Glorfindel the balrog slayer. I doubt I will have the courage to speak a word to him," Éomer said.
"Oh, I think you will. He has an open, friendly manner," Aragorn said. "I think the two of you will like one another." Lothíriel and Legolas approached them.
"Who will he like?" Lothíriel asked.
"Glorfindel," Éomer said, still bemused at the idea of having a cozy chat with this legendary figure. "You will meet him first."
"Legolas told me that he overheard the two of you speaking of the trip to Rohan and Lothlórien. Thank you, my king. I am so happy that you will permit me to go," Lothíriel said. "Legolas taught me a greeting to Elbereth in the Silvan dialect of Lothlórien."
"That is excellent. Next I will have to teach you to say "hello" in Rohirric," Éomer said.
"Wes ðu hal, hlaford min,"1 Lothíriel said, sticking her tongue out at him.
"Wel ðu segst, hlæfdige min,"2 Éomer said, laughing at her. "We can work on your accent later." I can read your every thought. You know what you make me think of when I see that teasing tongue of yours.
"Frecne beorn!"3 she said. Both Éomer and Aragorn laughed. Éomer, I know you love my accent too. You will be sorry when I lose it.
"I think you meant to say, 'Ic þe þancas do, cyning min,'"4 Éomer said aloud, his eyes soft with affection. I love everything about you. I love your mouth, your eyes, your silken skin.
"Exactly," she said and dropped into a deep curtsey, "Ic þe þancas do, cyning min. But I think we should stop this language lesson before I lose my temper and you end up sleeping alone tonight." I want you in my bed, in my arms now, my love.
"You see, Aragorn, we have nothing to worry about concerning Lothíriel on this diplomatic mission. She is always circumspect and a virtual prodigy at languages," Éomer said, still laughing. No more than I want you. I have thought of nothing else all day but making love to you again.
"Yes," Aragorn said. "She will probably be speaking fluent Rohirric while you are still trying to figure how to decipher the obscure references of the nicknames she gives people."
"Legolas, do you like your new nickname?" she asked.
"I like it because you gave to me, but I do not think my father intended me to be called by the name of a lord of the Noldor," Legolas said laughing.
"Then, if I ever meet your father, Laiqalasse, I will not use my name for you around him. I will only call you Legolas Thranduilion, Prince of Eryn Lasgalen and of the Silvan Elves of Ithilien," she said.
"Perhaps she is a diplomat," Aragorn said.
Shortly after dawn, Éomer sat in the front of the open window of Lothíriel's chamber and watched her sleeping with curiosity and compassion. Relaxed in slumber she looked like a child. Her skin was perfect, like that of infants and young children. Her lips were closed and her breathing inaudible. He thought that if one found someone like Lothíriel, one did not delay or temporize. The result of such a course could be unpredictable and the risk of losing her unthinkable.
Her look of innocence and utter peace only added to the illusion of ethereality. Perhaps her father had been right when he insisted that she had not reached maturity for woman of Númenórean blood diluted only by the Elven. But, he thought that it mattered little to him now. He would not, even if he could, change anything that had passed between them. He knew, no matter the cost, he was right to bind himself to her and would endure her necessarily uneven development into a woman.
Yet, he had an intuition of an inevitability of their union that was soothing. He knew he did not have the dubious gift of foresight that Faramir and Lothíriel claimed. Nevertheless, as he would observe in the decades to come, it was from that moment of watching her sleep in morning sunshine that his certainty in the rightness of his chosen course became for him unassailable.
He did not think he was entirely out of his depth, but there had been surprises. When he had first met Imrahil and his sons, he had thought that they were of the same type as the Gondorian nobles from the area of Minas Tirith. But he had been wrong. They did not flaunt it, but their courtly manners and outward elegance of comportment hid a singular disregard for convention and traditional Gondorian standards that pleased him. The openness with which they had accepted him within their circle of trust surprised him.
The rarity and singularity of his southern princess was not lost on him. He had thought she would stand out in Rohan at first, but would quickly fit into life there. He knew his countrymen would accept her, actually had already accepted her. Lately had realized that she stood out here in Gondor as well, among what he had once considered her peers. The noble Gondorian maidens of her generation seemed alike to him--dark or light, pretty or plain, there was a sameness about them.
He mused what an exotic Faramir's mother must have seemed, who he had been told resembled Lothíriel greatly. He speculated that Denethor, although he was reputed to have loved her greatly, may have felt that she was strange and incomprehensible to him. He would not make the same mistake. Lothíriel had opened her heart and mind to him and he had allowed her to see within his as well. He would keep that window open.
Lothíriel stirred and opened her eyes. "You are dressed," she said, sounding disappointed.
"There are things I must do, before I take you to choose a horse," he said. "I will come back for you in less than two hours. Of course, later, if you are tired after spending hours in the sun and dust. I may have to bring you back here in the afternoon to rest for awhile."
"Promises, promises," she said smiling. "What if I do not want to wait that long? May I have one kiss at least?"
As he leaned over her to give her a perfunctory kiss in parting, she caught her hands in his hair, drawing him down upon her, causing him to lose his balance, and eliciting the smile she sought. She kissed him long enough and warmly enough to let him know that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to leave as he had intended. He pulled away, lifting his head and studying her, while he lightly stroked her cheek, aware of the smoothness of her skin and the delicate contours of her face. She would not allow him to raise his head far, holding him as she did by a handful of his hair. She lowered her other hand to the laces on the front of his trousers.
"I really should go," he said, covering her lips with his once more. She slid her hand into the front of his loosened trousers and he knew that he was defeated. He could no longer remember why he had felt such urgency to get an early start.
Nearly two hours later, Éomer held Lothíriel in his arms, his boots and clothes in jumbled heap on floor beside the bed, but he was not entirely at peace.
"What do you think of Legolas?" he asked.
He sensed she understood the question behind his question and her answer confirmed this.
"If I had not met you, I might have fallen in love with him," she said.
"So, you find him physically attractive?" he asked. She laughed with such openness it immediately reassured him.
"One would have to be a corpse not to find him attractive. But I admire him for his integrity, strength, as well as his beauty, much as I admire my cousin Faramir. My love for him is similar, like that for an older brother, who is wiser, gentler, more tolerant, and far quieter than my own. Thank Eru that I met you; for it would not have been a good thing if I had become infatuated with him. Worse even than Elladan . . ." she said.
"Tell me about Elladan, my love," he asked.
"Well, there is truly nothing to tell. I could have loved him for he is not completely an Elf, not in the same way as Legolas, at least. And he does not seem to have that ancient and disturbing sealonging of Legolas. However, I chose you. There is nothing more to it now," she said. "We are not even speaking. Perhaps someday we can be friends again."
"Yet, you have desired him, perhaps you do still," he stated.
"And have you never desired a woman? Would you promise me you never will again?" she asked. He could not control a laugh.
"There have been a few, to be honest more than a few. And I cannot promise you I would never notice a woman in that way again. But I chose you and, unlike you, I had a basis for comparison," he said.
"Do not penalize me for coming to you as my first love," she said with a pout.
"I do not. I just want you to be sure. Do you remember what day today is?" he asked.
"Of course, I remember. My father will announce our betrothal at the king's reception tonight," she said. "Tell me now if you are uncertain."
"No. I am certain. I have been from the moment we first spoke of it. I only ask one thing of you that you will always be honest with me," Éomer said.
"I promised you that I will always tell you the truth and I do!" Lothíriel said. She grabbed his face between her hands and demanded, "Look into my eyes, doubtful one. You can read my heart," she insisted. Éomer laughed again.
"I read you clearly at this moment, but I am thinking of the future. I fear taking away your youth, the chances that you might have had to fall in love, out of love, to confuse lust for love, and to do all the foolish things I did that you have not done," he said.
"Now you are frightening me," Lothíriel said.
"No. If we are honest with one another, we can resolve anything," Éomer said. "What do you see when you read my thoughts?"
"That you do truly love me, as I love you. Also, that you think it is getting late, but you want to make love again anyway," she said.
"Is it too late to look at horses today?" Lothíriel asked.
"Not at all. It is too late for me to go alone and then come back here to get you. I wanted to look them over first," Éomer said, he could not suppress the grin that he felt pulling at the corners of his mouth. "I had hoped to influence your choice."
Lothíriel dressed quickly in a loose white blouse and a short split-skirt, colored the same bright blue as the jackets of the Swan Knights, which barely covered the tops of her sturdy but beautifully-made riding boots. She pulled her dark hair into one thick tail, fastened it at the back of her neck, and then reached into her skirt pocket to pull out a pair of riding gloves. Éomer looked her up and down approvingly.
"Ready then?" he asked.
On the way out of the house, Lothíriel dashed into the family dining room to grab a few of the perfect small apples arranged artistically in a large bowl on the table there, and thrust them into the ample pockets of her riding skirt. Within a few minutes they were walking briskly back and forth and down, from one level to the next, followed by Éomer's small guard. The walls and houses of the White City glittered in the sunlight, as they had every day since they had returned from Cormallen.
When they reached stables on the first level, when Éomer strode purposefully to the far end, pulling Lothíriel after him by the hand.
"Look. He sees you," Lothíriel cried out. A groom held Firefoot, Éomer's large red stallion, who began to wicker and move restlessly. The groom looked even happier than the horse at the sight of his master.
"You're late, my lord," the young Rohír said, bowing his sandy head, his nearly beardless face suffused with a cheeky smile, as he unabashedly assessed the pretty black-haired lady who accompanied his king.
"Thank you, Déor," Éomer answered. "He looks well." Lothíriel reached into one of the deep pockets of her skirt and pulled out a russet. Holding it flat on her hand, she slowly extended it to the giant horse. He daintily took it from her hand.
"I think he likes me," she said. "May I touch him?" She glanced quickly from his groom to Éomer for approval.
"Here, on the neck. He is a smart horse. What is there for him not to like about a beautiful woman bearing fine imported apples?" Éomer said laughing. He continued patting the horse and whispering Rohirric words in his ear. Then he added in Sindarin, "There, there, Firefoot, this is my lady love and your future queen, treat her with respect." Éomer noticed his youthful groom's grin broaden appreciatively.
"He is splendid and so well-mannered," Lothíriel said.
"For the moment he is," Éomer said. "He is on his best behavior. He is anxious for me to take him out. You can ride your own horse back. Will you ride down to the fields with me?" Éomer asked.
"Will he dislike the extra weight?" she asked.
"He is strong and used to me in full armor. Anyway, you are light as a feather," Éomer said.
"I am not as light as I look. I may be slim, but am tall for a woman, even taller than Éowyn," she said.
"Actually, I was thinking more of propriety than weight," Éomer said.
"Forget propriety. Our betrothal will be announced tonight," she answered. "Then you can kiss me on the walls of the Citadel in front of the whole City. Not that there are many remaining who have not already seen us kiss." Éomer noticed with amusement that her face clouded a little as looked around at the curious Rohirrim who had not taken their eyes off of her since she had entered the stables with him.
"What will your men think of such intimacy, cyning min?" she whispered with a flirtatious smile.
"They will know I have claimed you as my bride soon enough, if I can convince you to take a mare," he answered.
"Is the gift of a horse a sign?" Lothíriel asked intrigued.
"Generally, the gift of a horse, a gelding that is, would be seen as a sign of friendship. However, if I give a gorgeous, foreign, high-ranking princess a stallion or mare it will be to my people as open a declaration of the plighting of our troth as any announcement in the court of King Elessar will be to yours," Éomer said.
He grabbed her by the waist with both hands and said, "Ready. Push up." She placed her hands on his shoulders. With the aid of their combined strength, her grace, and her knowledge of horses, he swept her upward smoothly onto to Firefoot's back and swung himself up effortlessly behind her.
"But my Bliðefreond was a stallion," she said.
"Contraband, I am sure," Éomer said with a pretense of sternness.
"No wonder father was so annoyed with me and he was so frightfully expensive. Does that make me a horse thief?" Lothíriel asked, appearing delighted at the idea.
"Nay. The last few years were hard times for our horse traders. If a few mares or stallions slipped through to Belfalas now and again, we turned a blind eye. Dol Amroth has bought heavily of only our finest horses and paid the highest prices over countless years," Éomer said. "It was the disappearance of nearly all our blacks to the enemy that troubled us."
Éomer guided Firefoot cautiously down the last bit of the slippery stone roadway out of the City. When they reached the bottom, he let the stallion burst forward. He tightened his arm around Lothíriel's waist and she snuggled provocatively against him.
"Careful. Do not disturb my horse. He is already aware there is a hold filled with mares below," Éomer said. She laughed lightly and Firefoot, who had already begun to slow his pace, sensing they neared their destination, flicked his head up as though approving of the sound.
"You were right. He truly does like you. I would have been disappointed if I had to give him up for you. But I would have..." Éomer said, kissing her neck below her ear and pressing his chest more firmly against her back.
"Éomer," she said with strong emotion, "Under no circumstances would I have ever permitted you to do any such thing. You owe him your life many times over. But that is the dearest declaration of your love that you have ever given me."
Éomer answered, "Aragorn is right, you will fit extremely well in Rohan."
By the time Éomer and Lothíriel finally arrived at the section of the Pelennor Fields where the horses which had newly arrived from Rohan were stationed, the entire area had taken on the appearance of a full-scale horse fair. Large paddocks had been erected containing stallions, mares, and geldings. The paddock containing the majority of the geldings was the site of brisk trade. The sale of the few that could be spared would aid the staggering economy of Rohan.
Paddocks with the mares and stallions were quieter by contrast, but still scenes of sustained activity. Riders of Rohan who had lost horses at either of the Battles of Pelennor Fields or the Morannon were negotiating with the horse traders for a ride home. Various Gondorians, horse fanciers all, were simply enjoying the opportunity to survey the finest horseflesh of Arda in such number and variety. As Éomer and Lothíriel dismounted a short distance from the fenced paddock which contained most of the mares, one of the soldiers who had accompanied them ran up to Éomer and offered to take Firefoot. Éomer gladly accepted the offer.
To her surprise, Lothíriel immediately spotted Aragorn and her father, with Éowyn and Faramir. Éowyn ran up to her and took her arm, all smiles.
"Lothíriel, you are late," Imrahil said, also wearing a broad smile.
"I did not know we had an appointment to meet you," Lothíriel said, reaching up to kiss her father.
"Faramir told us this morning that Éowyn was excited to come and watch you choose a horse. So, we decided this was an occasion that none of us wanted to miss," Aragorn said.
"There they are," Éomer said. "Do you see one that interests you?"
Lothíriel climbed up on the fence searching a crowd of horses which had bunched nearer to the other side of the paddock. She noticed that everyone except Éomer was watching her as she looked at the horses. He appeared to be intently looking for a particular horse as well.
"Look, look. Do you see her? That one," Lothíriel shouted pointing in the direction of the main mass of horses. Faramir and Imrahil laughed.
Éowyn climbed up on the fence next to her. "Which one?" she demanded.
Éomer stuck his head between the two women. "Is it the elegant grey with the black mane and tail?" he asked knowingly.
"Yes. She's beautiful," Lothíriel said with she what feared must have been a totally besotted sigh.
"Shall we see if she is as interested in you?" Éomer asked, laughing as he climbed the fence and dropped onto the other side. Lothíriel climbed over as well and prepared to jump, but Éomer reached up for her, whirled her around, and set her on her feet, "Just trying to help you get her attention," he said.
Éowyn turned to Faramir and the others, "She wants the long-legged, small-boned Elvish-looking one. I watched that one yesterday when I came down here. She is hardier than she looks, I would guess. Quite the fine lady that mare. Fit for a queen of the Riddermark. Lothíriel has chosen well."
"Wish me luck," Lothíriel called behind her. She followed Éomer toward the center of the paddock hoping she appeared less anxious than she felt. The tight clump of horses broke apart and scattered, a few approached Lothíriel and Éomer. The object of Lothíriel's attention stayed in her original position. But she lifted her head higher, her ears cocked back with interest.
A little red mare, with a white star came up and nudged Lothíriel gently. She stroked horse's neck. "Oh, you are pretty too, aren't you?" Lothíriel said, laughing gaily.
The tall grey pricked up her ears even more, shuffled a bit in small dancer-like movements and finally headed straight toward them. Lothíriel met the mare's fine eyes as she neared them and reached into her pocket. The horse stopped directly in front of them, but a few feet away, and whickered softly.
The lovely mare's attention was focused completely on Lothíriel, as she slowly took out an apple. Lothíriel held out her hand and the mare took it gently and then stood still, as though granting the princess permission to touch her. For several minutes Lothíriel patted and stroked her, speaking softly and encouragingly, permitting the mare to become familiar with her touch and the sound of her voice. She noticed the mare did not beg or try to find another apple. Lothíriel produced another and that time she took it more eagerly and whickered affectionately.
"Would you like to ride her now?" Éomer said softly as though he did not want to interrupt the two of them.
"Oh, yes! Give me a leg up," she answered. Éomer laughed.
"Wait, wild Elf lady. Let me get you a bridle at least," he said. He shouted something in Rohirric that she did not understand. Lothíriel turned to see that a growing crowd had gathered to watch them. A young Rohír, a groom or horse trainer, ran up to them carrying a bridle and moved to hand it to Éomer. Lothíriel intercepted it and took it from the young man.
"Thank you very much," she said in the Common Tongue and was rewarded with a wide smile and a deep bow.
"I am honored to serve you, milady," he answered.
Lothíriel stroked the mare, then held the bridle where the mare could see it, and easily slipped it onto her and fastened it. Her action was answered by cheers and applause. She felt her face redden in embarrassment. She had never expected to be applauded for putting a bridle on a horse.
She looked to see her father, Éowyn, Aragorn, and Faramir. Éowyn was clapping along with the Rohirrim and the other three were laughing. Aragorn grinned and gestured to Lothíriel, indicating he wanted to see her mount the horse. She turned back to Éomer, who was beaming at her proudly. He pulled her fully into his arms and kissed her soundly. "Oh, how I love you," she said, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him back enthusiastically. She heard the sound of even less restrained shouts and whistles behind her.
"Cheers for putting a bridle on a horse and then louder cheers for kissing their king. Your people spoil me, my love," she whispered. Lothíriel saw the luminosity of passion in Éomer's eyes and it sent waves of softening warmth throughout her entire body. But he did not try to kiss her again.
"Ready," he said huskily and, at her nod, boosted her onto her mare.
Later that night, Prince Imrahil announced the betrothal of the Princess of Dol Amroth to the handsome young king of Rohan with great solemnity and ceremony before a dazzling assembly of the most noble and powerful of Gondor and its allies. Lothíriel and Éomer were happy and pleased, but to both it seemed anticlimactic in comparison to the unabashedly joyful whistles and cheers of approval of the Riders of Rohan at the horse fair under the open skies and clouds of dust of the Pelennor Fields.
Laiqalasse = Legolas, an Elf of Gondolin in the Book of Lost Tales 2.
1. Wes ðu hal, hlaford min = Hail (be well), my lord.
2. Wel ðu segst, hlæfdige min = Well said (you say/speak well), my lady.
3. Frecne beorn = Audacious man.
4. Ic þe þancas do, cyning min = Thank you, my king.
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.