17. Forth Eorlingas!
The next four days in Minas Tirith passed like a hurried afternoon. Lothíriel left the City for the Pelennor Fields every morning to become as well acquainted as she could with her new mare before the upcoming trip. Éomer often accompanied her and watched with approval as she and the horse went through their paces. She knew that Éomer was ready to provide advice, but that he was happy and surprised when it was not needed.
Lothíriel was amused to observe that Éowyn was beginning to consider herself an expert on the history and customs of Númenor. She was also pleased to overhear Éowyn carefully explain to Éomer that her earlier assumption that Lothíriel's ease with horses was a result of her Elvishness had not been entirely accurate. Éowyn stated with her usual conviction that the men of the West who adhered most closely to their Númenórean roots rivaled the Rohirrim in their love, respect, and knowledge of horses.
As the days drew closer to the time when Lothíriel was to leave the White City, she was suddenly stricken with mild guilt and remorse at leaving her father and Erchirion to fend for themselves in Minas Tirith without her as mistress of the house. She initiated long, detailed, and frequent discussions with Irilde and Cook. Finally, Cook, the more volatile of the two, had threatened to take the next boat back to Dol Amroth if Lothíriel would not leave them in peace and attend to herself.
Meanwhile, Lothíriel packed and unpacked her personal effects several times. She was tortured between taking what she thought she might need to make a suitably positive impression on both the people of Rohan and the Lothlórien community of ancient mysterious Elves and appearing to be overly concerned with finery.
Most of all she did not want to present herself for the first time before the Rohirrim as a privileged princess of the richest province of Gondor. She was acutely aware that Dol Amroth had survived largely unscathed, when the people and lands of Rohan had sacrificed so much to the cause of victory and freedom in the great Ring War. On the other hand, she wanted them to see her as not simply a suitable, but a brilliant match for their much-loved king. However, she found the idea offensive of dragging a wainload of frippery along behind her into a land that needed grain-state visit or not.
On one of the last evenings in Minas Tirith, an intimate group gathered in King Elessar's private sitting room. Elrohir spoke up. "Why so pensive, Lothíriel? You look as though you had to bear the entire weight of Arda on your shoulders alone."
Half afraid of being compared to a young girl brooding over what gown to choose for her first ball, Lothíriel blurted out her preoccupation. To her relief and astonishment the largely male crowd took her concerns seriously. Aragorn complimented her on her good judgment in desiring to travel light. Prince Imrahil reassured her that it was a fitting and legitimate concern of a prince to consider such matters as appearance and the impression one would make.
Éowyn, who was as usual opinionated and specific, stated bluntly, "Your youth and beauty will go far to recommend you with all of Eorlingas and the way you sit a horse will serve that purpose as well. But, if you truly want to catch their eye, wear your Dol Amroth blue riding habit when you enter Edoras for the first time."
To her great surprise, Elladan spoke up as well, although his tone was cool and impersonal. "Gems are lighter to carry than gowns. You should take those dangling earrings of adamant that you wore to the coronation ball. They make you look most queenly. Our company will be well armed, your trinkets will be safe with us."
"The ones as big as Simarils?" Faramir said, sounding to Lothíriel both astonished and, she thought, perhaps slightly disapproving at the idea of such an ostentatious display.
Lothíriel mused that the Stewards of Gondor were far less comfortable with courtly trappings than the princes of Dol Amroth. Both Boromir and Faramir wore rich garments, as their father had, but in keeping with the tradition of the House of Húrin, in shades of black, grey and dark brown.
She bitterly recalled inadvertently eavesdropping, perhaps only a year or so earlier, on a dispute between her Uncle Denethor and her cousin. Faramir had supported an opinion voiced by her brothers regarding Gondor's coastal defenses that contradicted that of his father. Denethor had dismissively referred to them as "light-minded peacocks."
With that memory still rankling in her mind, she permitted herself to make eye contact with Faramir. Her handsome cousin, returned her gaze with a soft, slightly self-conscious smile. She could not resist sending him a response. Do not worry. I know that you have nothing of your father's arrogance and narrow-mindedness. But you do look most comely in simple black.
"It is easy to see that Gondor has gone without a king for nearly one thousand years," Éowyn said in response to Faramir's Silmaril remark. "Full granaries are vital, but a king's subjects enjoy a certain amount of pageantry and show as well, or we would have stripped the roof of the Meduseld of its gold long hence."
"The gems are not nearly as large or heavy as they look or I could not bear to wear them. It is the craftsmanship in the cutting and setting of the stones that makes them look so fine," Lothíriel said. "In any case, they are not mine. It is entirely up to Papa's discretion whether I can take them on such a long trip."
"They are, for all intents and purposes, yours now, my dear," Imrahil said. "But Éomer is the one who will have to approve their use, since they are currently entailed as part of your dowry."
"How can that be? They are heirlooms of Dol Amroth, said to date back to Númenor itself," Lothíriel asked.
Éomer blushed bright red. "When I asked for them, I did not realize their value was so great. Only that they became you," he said, looking embarrassed. "Your dowry was, indeed, extravagant, but I wanted to you to have at least a few of the trinkets, as Elladan called them, to which you have been accustomed. Your father drew up a list of a few other such items at my request. His advisers and your brothers approved of it."
"Éomer, that was a generous sentiment, but I told you that I wanted or needed nothing for myself that Rohan could not offer," Lothíriel said.
"But I wanted you to have more," Éomer said. "I would not penalize you for your love of me or my countrymen."
"Enough! Save that romantic nonsense for later when you are alone," Éowyn said. "No one begrudges you your fancy gems, Lothíriel. I am content that I will be eating fresh fruit and vegetables at the end of every winter while you are still eating turnips."
"Do not sound so stoic and superior, Éowyn. I happen to know that the House of Húrin is far from impoverished. Aside from everything that reverts back to the king and to Gondor, there is a king's ransom in jewels that Faramir is sole heir to," Lothíriel said.
Slapping his knee, Aragorn threw back his head in a great laugh. "Neither of you ladies is in any danger of being ill-fed or poorly clothed. And we are all duly impressed with your ardor for love and duty and how little you want or need for yourselves."
Elrohir added, "But, to return to the problem of pomp and circumstance, in Lothlórien at least it matters not what you wear. You will enter those lands accompanied by my brother and me, and with the favor of Estel. That is all that you will require."
Aragorn raised his eyebrows at Elrohir. He said, "That is not reassuring, brother. Women always want to know that they look well. Arwen is the wisest and most judicious of women, but even she has a weakness for pretty gowns."
Turning to Lothíriel, he continued, "But I think that when she sees what a lovely young woman you are, she will no doubt beg you to let her dress you for any festive occasions that may arise in Lórien. She is the same as you in height and only a little fuller in figure."
"Just a little," Legolas said. He grinned and made an incongruously tasteless gesture with his hands in front of his chest, as though he were adjusting sizeable bosoms. Everyone burst into laughter, her father and Faramir included, much to Lothíriel's chagrin.
"Pay no mind to that Elven jester, my love. You have a perfectly lovely figure," Éomer said sweetly, with a wicked gleam in his eye.
"Will I need to tolerate such nonsense in Lothlórien as I am forced to endure here?" Lothíriel inquired, trying to sound annoyed, but failing utterly.
Elrohir answered quickly with mock horror, "Absolutely not, dear princess. At least not until you have become well acquainted with everyone and they realize how well you take a joke and that you never hold a grudge."
Since traveling to Cormallen and returning with her father to Minas Tirith, Lothíriel had been preoccupied with matters surrounding the court, the coronation, her social obligations as a noblewoman of Gondor, and the maintenance of her father's city house. She had spent little time in the Houses of Healing, and so she insisted on joining Éowyn there frequently for the last few days before leaving Minas Tirith. They organized transportation for the recuperating soldiers of Rohan and prepared packages of herbs and medical supplies that might be needed.
With one day remaining before the date set for the departure of the Rohirrim, seeing that all appeared in readiness, Aragorn suggested that Éowyn, Lothíriel, and Éomer ride with him, along with Faramir and Legolas, to Ithilien.
The delightful weather had held. Although the sun was hot, a brisk breeze made the short trip pleasant. Riding toward the hills of Ithilien, Lothíriel had a poignant sense of all that she was leaving and was acutely aware of how much the city of Minas Tirith had come to mean to her. That blustery March day when they had arrived from Dol Amroth with much foreboding, the immediate menace of doom, and but a thin thread of hope, seemed years behind them.
Éowyn was quiet as they left the City. Éomer's expression was thoughtful as well. Finally, he turned to Aragorn and spoke.
"It is difficult for me to leave this land and the friends that I have made here. Since the day you rose before me out of the green grass of the downs I have loved you. I know our love and friendship will endure, yet, I wish I had more time. There are so many things that I could learn from you. You have had long years to consider kingship and yet it has been thrust upon me without preparation or expectation."
Lothíriel listened, overcome with her own affection and admiration for her king. She looked at Aragorn and was struck again by his strength and magnetism. It was amazingly easy to forget for long moments just who he was and what he had accomplished. Despite the number of times it struck her, it always surprised her.
Aragorn replied, "Éomer, you know you will always have my love as well, for you have become to me as the younger brother I never had. Between us there can be no talk of giving or taking, nor of reward, although I owe you greatly. I will promise you that you will never be alone."
Éowyn looked out at the green hills of Emyn Arnen, drawing closer to Éomer as they rode. "As much as I would stay here and begin my new life," she said, her face softening as she looked back at Faramir, "I leave gladly to survey our land with you, my dear brother. Together we will assess what needs to be healed and make plans to set it in order."
"I do not underestimate the help that you will be to me, Éowyn," Éomer said. "Nor do I take lightly the capacity and energy that my bride will bring either. But we are all exceedingly young and my skill is that of a leader of warriors, not of a people at peace."
"Ai, Éomer," Éowyn said, her voice ringing with impatience and determination. "Do you think that our people love you because of an accident of birth, as the heir of the line of Éorl alone? Having you as his successor eased Théoden's passing. You never gave up hope. Your qualities were known to the Eorlings long before we wrested our kingdom from the grip of the enemy."
"Éowyn, my love, do not be so severe. Your brother would be far less wise if he did not have such concerns. I am worried as well at my ability to carry out my responsibilities and I will have Aragorn at my side every day," Faramir said. "Remember, I certainly was not groomed to be Steward of Gondor. Quite the contrary..."
"If you have confidence in my abilities, Éomer," Aragorn chuckled, "you would do well to remember that my first concrete training in the governance of men was in Rohan, under your grandfather Thengel. And I never reached the level of responsibility that you held at the age of a mere six and twenty years."
"I did not expect such a storm of protest," Éomer said, with a self-deprecating laugh. "You may all be sure that if I do fail it will not be for lack of will and effort."
"You will never be without the love and support of your friends. We will all accompany you to Rohan later in the summer when you come to return Théoden to rest with his people," Aragorn said. "If you still have concerns, we will put our heads together then."
Lothíriel had listened long enough in silence and piped up, feeling at least as impatient as Éowyn. "I can see it in your faces that the lot of you will be praised and renowned through the ages. Does no one else see that? And you, Éomer, I have seen in my dreams that you will be a great king and beloved beyond all others of your line."
"Well, that settles that discussion neatly," Éowyn said, rolling her eyes skeptically.
"My gentle lady," Legolas said to Éowyn, with a mischievous smile. "Do not dismiss such foresight too lightly. Lothíriel's gift, like that of your future husband, is strong."
"I have something to show you. This way. Around this turn and up this hill," Faramir said, enthusiasm and hope in his voice. "We are almost there." They entered what appeared to be a large clearing among a cluster of old growth trees, but on closer examination they saw it was the ruined foundation of what once must have been a large stone manor house. It sat on the crest of a hill, facing Minas Tirith without obstruction.
Legolas leapt from his steed and was the first to approach the crumbling stones. He picked up a branch and poked among the vines and scrubby green growth that hid most of the floor. Uncovering a set of stairs, he ran down and stopped in the middle of the structure.
"The stone work of this foundation is in remarkable condition. If you should decide to build here it could save you months of hard labor. We should have brought Gimli," Legolas called out to the rest.
"What do you think?" Faramir asked, dismounting quickly and holding up his arms to lift Éowyn to the ground. He watched her carefully as she approached the remains of the structure.
If she does not say she likes it, I will feel like slapping her, Lothíriel thought, overwhelmed by the beauty of the site, its unknowable history, and its view of Minas Tirith.
"It is beautiful. Magnificent," Éowyn said, throwing her arms around Faramir's neck.
"Did you ever fall asleep?" Lothíriel said, sitting up in bed, rubbing her eyes, and looking at Éomer, who stood tall and strong in front of the open balcony doors, clad only in a large towel slung low around his hips. With his broad shoulders, powerful muscles, and shaggy golden hair lit from behind, he was an attractive image to wake up to indeed. Are you a man or a Valar, beautiful one?
"I slept," he answered. Lothíriel was aware that he was clearly deep in thought and not in a mood to be teased about his looks.
"The sun lightened your hair even more again yesterday on our long ride," she said, groaning to herself at what an unimaginative attempt at distracting him that was under the circumstances. However, she was relieved when her effort was rewarded with an impish grin. Éomer may have slept badly due to worry or anxiety, but he was never one to wallow in doubt or self-pity.
"And your pretty nose is sunburned," he said. Laughing, she jumped out of bed and ran to peek in the mirror. He caused her to squeal and laugh louder still, when he used the opportunity to slap her playfully on the rump.
"Liar! It is not," she said. He pulled her into his arms for a hug and a light kiss on her nose.
"No. It is it not. But I got you out of bed, didn't I? Why does the sun have no affect on your skin?" he asked.
"I have no idea. You will have to ask the Elf," she said. "I am sure that Legolas can give you some high-flown theory about Elves having a lesser connection to the physical reality of Arda than we do and how I have Elvish blood."
"We do not have much time. Your high Elvishness should take a bath before we leave, because, like the rest of us Mortals, you will have little opportunity for bathing, aside from icy streams and pails of water, for quite some time. There is fresh hot water ready now. And, remember, we have a few thousand men waiting for us," Éomer said.
"I am fast," Lothíriel said.
"That was one of the things I first noticed about you," he teased. "You are hasty at everything. Some might say recklessly so..."
"Do you want me to brush your sun-bleached hair or braid it for you? It is beautiful, all clean and shiny, but wild," Lothíriel said.
"Ai, no. Leave it. I should not look like one of your elegant Swan Knights today. My men have seen enough of me all combed and starched, following you around clad in your brother's fancy shirts. They will want the old familiar figure of a rough barbarian horse lord to lead them home," Éomer responded.
"I hate it when you call yourself a barbarian."
"Take your bath, milady."
Long lines of Riders of Rohan on their splendid horses had formed before the gates of Minas Tirith. Lothíriel mounted her mare at the front of the Rohirric warriors, along Éowyn, Elladan, and Elrohir. She observed that there was no lack of color or display here. Cleaned and burnished armour glinted under the mid-morning sun. Green, red, and gold predominated in the trappings of the noble Rohirric steeds and the bright ribbons plaited in their manes. The brilliant green flags and banners of Rohan, each bearing a valiant white horse and a golden-rayed sun, flapped smartly in the light wind.
When Éomer emerged through the gates, all the eyes of the Riders turned to view their golden-haired warrior king. He stood in full armour, his gleaming helmet with its long, white horsetail tucked under his arm. He was half a head taller than his Marshall Elfhelm and the two lieutenants who accompanied them. Aragorn, at his side, was slighter taller than Éomer, but not as broad. Éomer turned and reached out a hand and to clasp Aragorn's forearm in a warrior's embrace, when Gondor's king broke free of it and pulled him into a large, warm bear hug.
The Riders of Rohan cheered and whistled madly. Lothíriel was greatly moved, as ever, at the reaction of his men to her beloved. She saw him as they did in that moment: he had emerged from deadly peril unscathed; he was young, charismatic, and he was their king, and, as such, the lord of a proud, fell people.
Éomer turned to face his troops. Lothíriel saw no trace on his face of the vulnerability he had revealed in private over the past couple of days. Instead she saw only purpose and self-confidence. He raised his fist in the air and shouted in Rohirric, "Hail, Eorlingas!"
A thunderous response, as though in one voice, came back to him: "Hail, King of the Mark!"
Éomer strode to his mount, at the front of the lines of troops, with his companions. When they were seated, he turned halfway around in the saddle and raised his arm high motioning them forward, and shouted, "Forth Eorlingas!"
A mighty roar swept down the ranks of the Riders of Rohan, from those closest to the gate until it had rippled like a wave to the end of the line. It was joined by the cheers of the citizens of Minas Tirith who had gathered to honor these valiant men who had come to their aid in their darkest hour.
Éowyn leaned to whisper in Lothíriel's ear, "He is really very good at this, is he not?"
"Oh, indeed, he is," Lothíriel answered.
The great line of mounted warriors set off by the Northway, slowly it first and then more quickly, as the music of the Riders' strong voices joined with the sounds of their great sonorous battle harps. All the road was lined with people to do them honor and praise them, from the Gate of the City to the walls of the Pelennor.
 This phrase, along with bits and pieces of the dialogue of Éomer, Éowyn, and Aragorn in this section, are taken directly from Return of the King, "The Steward and the King."
 Borrowed some language here from description of Éomer in Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields."
 Last sentence of this chapter lifted in its entirety from Return of the King, "The Steward and the 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.