11. Chapter 11
It was ridiculous, she thought, as he took her arm and they slipped around the edge of the dancers towards the door. From the moment he had met her at Erech she had wanted him to kiss her – now she wanted to run and hide. It probably would not happen anyway, she told herself, as they emerged from the hot hall onto the terrace outside. One of her brothers would realise - and where was he going to kiss her anyway? The stables would be the first place they would look.
Éomer led her down the steps, but instead of continuing down to the stables he turned right, behind the main guesthouse, towards what she thought was the armoury.
"Where are we going?" she could not refrain from asking any longer.
"Down to the wall. I don't know about you but I feel in need of stretching my legs and breathing some cool air."
The air was not exactly cool; it was quite warm and heavy. The moon was still giving them some light, and most of the houses had lanterns outside, but there were dark clouds building on the horizon. She thought he was right: it looked like a storm would break sometime that night. It was a good path, although not so smooth and wide as the main one that led from the gates directly up to Meduseld. They soon reached the wall that surrounded Edoras and had arrived at a place where some stone steps led up to the walkway running around the top of the encircling fortification. It enabled the guards to look out over the dyke to the plain beyond. At this particular point there was also a watchtower, reached by a wooden ladder.
There were a few people about: standing outside their houses gossiping, or just sitting taking the air. All greeted them politely and made a few remarks which she thought were about the weather and the problems the coming storm could cause.
"What are they saying?" Lothíriel asked, the Rohirric from the common people being too broad for her to understand properly as yet.
"They were asking about the stables. If there is a possibility of lightning we have to double the guard and have water ready."
"Oh," she had not thought, "in case of a lightning strike you mean?"
"Yes, but it has already been done. Edoras, being on this exposed hill, is vulnerable. The thunder storms around the autumn equinox can be quite severe. We cannot risk a fire."
Lothíriel shuddered: the prospect was too horrible to contemplate.
Éomer took her up the steps and led her towards the watch tower. Guards were patrolling along the walkway and as they neared the tower a man started to climb down the ladder. He was quite old and had one arm missing.
"Éomer King, my Lady. Have you come to watch the sky?" He spoke in Westron, probably in deference to her, Lothíriel thought.
"It's very hot with all the guests and the dancing, Aldor, "Éomer replied in the same tongue, "I thought Lady Lothíriel would enjoy the view from the watchtower."
The man raised his eyebrows slightly and a wide grin lit up his wrinkled face. He gave his King a broad wink. "Enjoy the view, eh, Sire. That's what it's called is it?"
Lothíriel almost gasped, trying to imagine a Gondorian soldier saying that to her father, let alone to their King. But Éomer just laughed. "Aldor you old rascal. You don't change." He turned to her. "The very first patrols I ever made were done in the company of this scoundrel. He taught me a lot."
Aldor was chuckling, "I could tell you some tales, my Lady. But I will spare his blushes."
Éomer groaned, "Come on Lorí, don't take any notice." He guided her over to the ladder. As they got closer Lothíriel was relieved to see that the rungs were made from wide planks so it would not be too difficult.
"You go first; it's not too bad really."
"I'll be fine," she said with deliberate confidence. Well, she was confident about climbing the ladder, if nothing else. As she put her foot on the first step Aldor called out.
"If I see any of those fancy Princes, I'll send them to the other side of the hill."
Lothíriel suddenly saw the funny side and started giggling. It eased her tension. It was only a kiss after all.
"You do that, Aldor," Éomer laughed, "but hopefully Éothain has the situation under control."
The Princess reached the top easily; it was only really like a steep set of stairs. The wooden tower was square, and would possibly hold about a dozen men. It was closed off from the houses behind them but was open to the front above waist height and she saw flaps that looked like they could be raised if Edoras was under attack, leaving just slits for firing arrows.
Éomer was close behind her and took her hand as soon as he emerged onto the platform.
"Come and look at the view before the moon is completely obscured," he said leading her to the parapet.
The moon was shining down on the peaks of the mountains, lighting up the pockets of snow, much as the sun had done the day before but this time they were glowing silver instead of white. The black jagged peaks against the moonlit sky and the dark slow moving clouds were mesmeric. A few bright stars still shone through the gaps in the clouds but she could see that would not last long as they were getting thicker. There was a low rumble of thunder in the distance.
Éomer stood behind her and wrapped his arms right around her, letting his chin rest on her head. His warmth enveloped her. The feel of those strong arms, which were clasped across her midriff, made her mind stray away from even that spell binding view. Lothíriel crossed her own arms and put her hands tentively over his, wondering why she felt so shy. They stood in silence for a moment. Surely he could hear her heart beating.
"Last time we stood together looking at the stars, we were looking over the Pelennor," he reminded her. "I did not dare kiss you in case someone was watching." He stood up straight, pulled his hands from under hers and ran them up her arms to her shoulders.He gently turned her around to face him.
"Lorí," he suddenly said, almost accusingly, "you are trembling like a leaf. I am only going to kiss you."
"I know," she said immediately. She bit at her lip and tried to look him in the eye, "I mean I know you are only going to kiss me. I meant - I am not trembling. It was just a slight shiver," she justified herself, trying to sound convincing.
There was an amused chuckle as he wrapped his arms around her again, this time drawing her against his chest. "You can't be cold now and you are still trembling."
What did he expect? No one had ever kissed her before. Or held her quite so tightly for that matter. A few days ago she had felt wicked, but now, she just felt scared. "Alright, so I am a little nervous," she admitted at last. "But that does not mean that I do not wish you to do it."
Éomer rested his chin on her head for the second time. "That's why I thought it would be good idea if we spent a little time alone before our wedding night. I don't want you to be too anxious."
Her face was buried into the neckline of his tunic but she managed to reply. "I am not really. I was fine at the beginning of the week, when I first arrived. And now I just want the wedding to take place. I will be better then."
He let her go so he could look at her, letting his hands rest easily on her waist. "Is there anything bothering you? Tell me if there is. We are going to spend our life together. I want it to start out well."
She definitely wanted it to start out well but she also wanted it be different than when Éowyn got married. Éowyn and Faramir were desperately in love with each other. It could not possibly be the same for her. She hesitated and then said quietly, "I would prefer it if there was just the two of us. I don't want anyone else around."
There was a stunned silence for a moment before Éomer replied. "Lorí, I know the bed is quite large, but I was only envisaging sharing it with you."
Realising what she had said, Lothíriel rushed to explain. For a moment, however, she could hardly talk for laughing, and she buried her face back into his chest. It was the best thing she could have done as it made her feel a lot better. She composed herself at last. "I meant that I don't want all the women getting me ready. Éowyn hated it. There were two maids, three Ladies in Waiting and me. It was awful. They were all giggling about nightgowns and the suchlike…" All that fuss about a nightgown, she reflected. She had wondered about it then and now that she was more informed she could not imagine how you did all those things wearing a nightgown. She realised, with a flash of guilt, that Éomer was waiting patiently for her to continue. "It took ages and made her even more fretful than she might have been. All she really wanted was to be alone with Faramir, but there was no hope of that in Gondor." Lothíriel just knew that, in her situation, she would find all that giggling, awful.
"You are saying," he said, sounding quite relieved, "that you want us to sneak off alone like we have tonight?"
"Yes, I do. I know that's normal in Rohan, but I was afraid it would be different for us."
"No, I don't think so. The last royal marriage was so long ago we can make up our own rules. Tell Frecca and Éowyn your wishes and," he grinned, "I will work out a plan of campaign to disappear quietly."
"Thank you," she said seriously, "and I promise you I will not be stupidly nervous. I do know all about it you know."
"You do?" The amusement was back in his voice.
She nodded. "I thought no one was going to tell me anything but Elnid, Lord Angbor's wife, made sure I was fully informed."
Éomer frowned, creases forming between his eyes. He had met Angbor's wife, and tried to imagine her instructing Lorí on wedding nights. He could not.
Realising what he was thinking Lothíriel started laughing again. "It wasn't Lady Elnid who told me," she said still chuckling, "it was her son's wife, Jana. She was very explicit."
"Was she?" He was amused again. "I am not sure if that was a good thing or a bad one."
Lothíriel was not really sure now either, but on the whole she though perhaps it was. "I think it's better to be prepared. It might come as a shock otherwise."
"I suppose it might," he agreed. "Which brings us back to why we are here. I was going to kiss you."
This time she wanted him to and as he loosened his grip on her she slipped her arms up around his neck "I haven't done this before," she advised him rather unnecessarily, "you will have to show me."
"Oh, make no mistake about that, Lorí," he whispered in her ear, "I fully intend to."
He smiled softly at the trusting face that was now angled towards him and lifted one hand to trace a finger across her bottom lip. "Don't, worry, Lorí," he whispered in that husky voice she rather liked, "I have a feeling you will enjoy it." One hand went around the back of her neck and buried itself in her hair and the other ran down her spine and came to rest on her bottom and as his lips touched hers he pulled her hard against him her lips opened involuntary in response to the intimate gesture, allowing him full access with his tongue.
Nothing, she quickly realised, could have prepared her for the strange feelings in the pit of her stomach, the tingling in her breasts and an unspecified need she had never felt before, somewhere in the very core of her.
When they parted he put his hands on her shoulders and held her away from him for a moment, looking into her eyes. "Did that frighten you?"
She shook her head. "No, she answered rather shakily, "It was the best thing to have done. I feel better now."
"Good, I thought you might." He quirked an eyebrow, "So you are happy if I kiss you again?"
More than happy actually, but she just nodded. However, before the second kiss could even begin there was a loud crack which made Lothireil nearly jump into her betrothed arms. It also made every dog in Edoras; join in a furious, raucous barking match.
They looked around, the storm had crept up when they were otherwise engaged and the lightning flash had been relatively close. This was confirmed by the following deafening clash of thunder.
Éomer grabbed her hand, "Come on, the horses. If there is a strike, they will need all the help they can get."
He almost leapt down the wooden steps and lifted her down from halfway up. Together they ran along the wall to the stone steps leading down to the street. They had just reached the street when there was another crack and the eastern sky was lit up by a bolt of forked lightening. Lothíriel shouted, over the following thunder clap. "You go on, I will be alright."
"No, its not far, come on." He almost pulled her with him, running through a back ally and a few minutes later emerging on the main way to the stables. Others were running in the same direction.
She knew the stables were jam packed. Some horses were even tethered in the training ring as there were so many visitors. Frightened horses were liable to do anything. They reached the stable yard and all was calm but Lothíriel could hear some panicky whinnying from deep in the stables where Jewel and Fudge were housed. They were about halfway across the yard when Éomer was met by Halcon, the stable master.
"It's not too bad, Lord" the man reported. "Most of the riders arrived at the first hint of the storm. The warhorses are alright, I am worried about the ones in the open ring. I am just going down there. If they break out it could be dangerous."
"Order the main gates to be opened," Éomer advised. "I do not want them careering madly around Edoras. If they do break out guide them down the main street. They are mostly our own and will return by themselves or we can round them up in the morning.
"Fudge?" Lothíriel blurted out. "She will be frightened witless."
"Oh aye, that little Palomino. She is frightened. Díor is with her," Halcon sought to reassure her.
There was another crack, this time nearer. "Well done, Halcon, I won't detain you. Have you got enough men?"
Halcon gestured to the direction of Meduseld. "I've sent to rouse everybody. They will be sobering up fast."
There was another loud bang and Éomer pulled Lothíriel towards the stable which held Jewel and Fudge and the other mares and geldings. When they entered there were already many men there, mostly from Gondor. She could hear the stamping of hoofed feet and some frightened whinnying, but also something else - the low mummer of song -The Rohirric stable lads were singing.
They're singing," she said, stating the obvious.
It's the best way of calming them," Éomer explained, "Horses seem to like it. They enjoy us singing, around the campfires as well as in battle.
The song was rich and deep, but repetitive and soothing. She imagined that if a warrior tried to sing a lullaby, it would sound much like this.
Some horses were standing quite calmly, a few even pulling wisps of hay from their mangers, but a few others were more than alarmed. When they reached Jewel, she was rolling her eyes and sweating, but did not look in any immediate danger of reacting badly enough to hurt herself. Fudge was opposite her. She was cowering in the far corner of her stall, and the young stable lad, Díor was humming softly to her.
"Talk to her Lorí," Éomer suggested, "As well as the storm, she is in a strange unfamiliar place. That will not be helping her. Your voice might reassure her," he added.
Before she could say anything there was a loud hiss and a crack, it sounded almost overhead and it was closely followed by the loudest clap of thunder so far. The little mare shrieked, if horses can shriek, and shying away from the three people at the entrance to the stall tried to climb into the next one.
"Fudge, Fudge, it's alright it's nearly over," Lothíriel crooned. The lads were still harmonising together, producing their low charismatic melody as they tried to keep the animals calm, and the princess joined in, she had quite a powerful voice for one so small and she used it to hum the Rohirric melody to the petrified little mare.
She thought she saw a slight lessening of Fudge's fright but suddenly there was a loud shout and someone burst through the main door to the stable block.
Éomer turned to remonstrate with whoever had stupidly broken the peace.
It was a Gondorian soldier. He shouted wildly, "Meduseld, Meduseld's been stuck. The hall is on fire!"
For a short second Éomer did not move he looked to the door and then back at Lothireil. She stared at him for another infinitesimal moment.
"Go, never mind here. Go!" she almost screamed.
Wordlessly he ran headlong for the door.
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.