4. Chapter 4
The Princess and the steps parted company, both going different ways. The feeling of falling only lasted a moment. Lothíriel was aware of her head hitting the pillar, she clutched at it for a moment trying to save herself. It was hopeless and there was nothing but to resign herself to a very painful landing on the hard floor. She heard the steps clatter and bang on the stone. Whatever she had landed on was hard, but it was not the floor. She couldn't breathe properly. She couldn't breathe, she realised, because someone was holding her very tightly, and her mouth was full of hair. The hair smelt of pines trees. Juniper actually. An irrational observation, she decided, given her predicament.
"Are you all right?" It was a deep voice, with an unusual accent. Right next to her ear
"Can't breathe," she managed to get out. The grip around her chest lessened slightly, allowing her to lift her hand to her mouth and remove the hair. But whoever was holding her did not put her down. Strangely, she felt disinclined to alter the situation. She felt safe. The greater freedom of movement meant that she was now able to focus on the hair. It was a golden colour. She refocused her eyes slightly to the area of her rescuer's neck and shoulder; a green wool tunic, embellished around the collar with embroidery: an intricate design in red and gold.
"You banged your head on the pillar."
"These stupid braids saved any damage being done. They cushioned the blow." Lothíriel suddenly realised that it was her rescuer's chest she had fallen against. It was certainly very hard and broad and…. her heart stopped as she looked down. Oh no….emblem, fair hair, gold embroidery…This could not be happening.
There was a soft chuckle, "They are certainly not so stupid if they saved you from being hurt."
"You are not supposed to be here yet," she said accusingly. It could be no one else
"It's a good job I was. We arrived much earlier than expected. Mostly due, I might say, to my sister's desperate desire to reunite with your cousin."
Éomer shifted her in his arms so that instead of her being held against his chest, almost over his shoulder, he was able to look down on her face. It brought her eyes directly in line with the White Horse on the front of his tunic. He did not seem to have any intention of putting her down.
"Why did you come to the library?" She looked up at his face. No, his beard was definitely not big and bushy, quite nice and neat in fact. His eyes were hazel with green flecks, most unusual, and they were twinkling with suppressed amusement.
"I wanted to talk to you. You were spotted heading this way with pile of books, so it seemed a safe bet I would find you here." He gave her a mischievous grin, "I was hoping to persuade you that it was not such a bad idea marrying me, but I must admit that I did not expect you to fall into my arms quite so quickly."
Did he really say that? She must have misheard. The bump on the head must have been worse than she thought. The Princess decided to ignore his words. "You had better put me down," she said hurriedly, suddenly realising, with a twinge of guilt, that she should not be allowing this; "someone may come in."
"You are right, they may." He did not put her down however, but headed towards the door, carrying her as if she weighed no more than a feather. Elphir had carried her to bed one night when she was ill in the summer. But it did not make her feel like this. She should make him put her down. She didn't. Éomer held her against him with one strong arm and took the key from a hook on the wall. He locked the door. "They won't come in now."
She didn't quite believe he had done that. "You had still better put me down," she was trying to sound convincing.
"It seems a shame," he laughed. "I doubt I will be allowed this close again until we are married." He fixed her with a look, both questioning and pensive. "That is if we are going to be married?"
There, she knew it! One look and he wanted to change his mind. Did he have any idea of the trouble it would cause? Why was he still holding her? She wriggled to get down.
"Now what's the matter?"
"I told my father, and my brothers, that it was a ridiculous idea. I knew you would not wish to go through with it once you met me. Well, you will have to tell them or they will blame me and…"
"Lothíriel," he held on to her more tightly. She turned her head away from him; she just knew she was going to cry. It was all too much. "Lothíriel, I have definitely not changed my mind. Your brothers described your attributes to me very explicitly and from where I am looking, they did not exaggerate."
What! She swung her head back around, her eyes seeking his face, her tears unshed. From his words she was almost expecting to see a leering lecherous grin, but he was looking even more amused.
"Please put me down." She needed a cool head to deal with this. Having his arms around her was not inducing one.
Éomer put her gently down, holding on to her for a moment to make sure she was steady on her feet. The Princess did wonder if she ought to curtsey but decided that they had gone a little past such formal gestures. Anyway, he was not respecting the conventions; he was not supposed to call her Lothíriel before they had been introduced. She smoothed out her skirts and adjusted the neckline of her dress, it had gone slightly awry. Well really, attributes indeed! She ought to be cross.
"Perhaps, my Lord, you had better make your meaning clear." He should not smile like that, it was not fair.
"I wanted to talk to you to make sure that you were happy to go through with this." He ran his fingers through his hair, looking a little unsure of himself. Something, she imagined, that did not happen often. "It was not until my sister berated me, in fact she hardly spoke to me for a week, that I realised what I had done. She was so angry, but I did not feel I could back out then…" He trailed off, unable to say any more.
His sister, why should she be angry? They had never met. "Why does Éowyn not want you to marry me?" she asked, her puzzlement showing.
"Oh, no, you misunderstand me," he said frowning slightly. "It was the way it was arranged. Of course as soon as she said, I realised." His frown deepened, "I would never have arranged Éowyn's marriage in that way, without consulting her at all. I wouldn't dare," he shuddered, "neither would Théoden for that matter, and yet I allowed your father to promise you to me. When she pointed it out, I was mortified, but it was too late and I was told that it was quite normal in Gondor, so I pushed my unease aside. It was not until I arrived and talked to your brothers, and they told me how worried you were by the whole thing, that I decided to seek you out and see if we could come to some arrangement."
He regarded her with a definite serious expression on his handsome features, "Either I convince you that any fears you have are groundless or if I cannot, then we find some way of cancelling tonight's announcement. I would not have you unhappy."
Lothíriel thought of the fuss that would be made, she would never be able to hold her head up again. And then there was the aid, all that grain, dried meat and fish, her dowry. "My Lord, I must speak bluntly. To change ones mind now would be well nigh impossible, it is just not done in Gondor." She shook her head, "It is too late now and I have come to terms with it." She looked up at him, she was naturally a truthful person but some things were difficult to say, "It is true I was very upset, mostly I admit, over the way it was decided, but I talked to Faramir and King Elessar and they reassured me somewhat." She gave him a grin, "And now that I have met you and can see that you are not eight foot tall. I am not unhappy."
She caught the look of relief that flashed across his face. She could not blame him: it must be awful to be struggling to feed his people. Then his face broke into a very attractive smile and he let out a deep chuckle, "In that case I hope I can certainly ease the rest of your fears, first of all I have to tell you," he was now trying to keep a straight face, she could tell, "that I can only ever manage one."
"Manage one?" she echoed bemused.
"Orc for breakfast," he grinned at her, "any more and I suffer with indigestion all day."
Her brothers, she ground her teeth, he had been talking to her brothers. She could not utter a word.
"What's more," he carried on, laughing now, "I assure you that I have no intention of letting my wife lead a charge of Shield Maidens, armed with a trowel or anything else for that matter."
She would kill them! She glared at him, "You have been talking to my brothers."
"I have," he did not look at all remorseful. "I arrived some time ago. After I had bathed and eaten I went looking for you, but I found them. I asked them directly what you thought of the idea. They enjoyed enlightening me."
"I am sorry." Whatever must he think of her?
"Don't be. I probably deserved it." They had been standing a few yards apart but now Éomer moved towards her and took hold of her hand. "Come on we need to discuss this." Before she could protest he put his hands around her waist and lifted her up to sit on the table. He went to pull a chair over for himself but spotted the open book by her side. "Is this what you were reading?" He glanced over it for a moment, his face taking on an expression of surprise, "You are interested in battle plans, are you?" he raised an eyebrow, his lips quivering with laughter.
"No, I am not," she replied rather haughtily, "but I am sure you are." She suddenly remembered who she was talking to. Her father would skin her alive if he heard her. She took a deep breath to steady her thoughts. "I mean, my Lord, that I did not know I would meet you now. I thought I would have to meet you for the first time in front of many people and then sit through a formal dinner. I thought comparing the battle of Pelennor Fields with the Field of Celebrant, would make for conversation."
"I suppose it might," he agreed, "with Amroth or Erchi." He could not stop the laughter, "But it is not the sort of thing I usually discuss with ladies."
Her silence must have alerted him to what he had said, "Lothíriel, believe me, I did not mean…"
The Princess started to giggle, he was just so unlike anything she had expected, not stuffy or full of his own importance. "You have not offended me, I know what you meant."
"Good," they were both laughing now. "Shall we start again?" He pulled up the chair and sat down the wrong way, wrapping his long legs around it and resting arms and chin on the high back. "I can understand your fears, bethrothed to someone you have never met, with the prospect of living in a country you have never seen, it must have been very troubling."
"I was troubled," she admitted. "I was very cross with my father." She shrugged, "I still am I suppose, but that has nothing to do with you. I have talked with the King and I understand the importance of our marriage." She stared at him for a moment; he was waiting for her to go on. "Now I have met you, I am not quite so frightened."
"Frightened, of what?" he asked.
"Well, it is difficult to explain." Impossible actually, she now decided. She could hardly tell him that she had been more than a little apprehensive that she might have taken an instant dislike to him, but she hadn't, she definitely hadn't. Quite the opposite, in fact. But she was hardy going to admit that so early on, was she? She improvised, "I was frightened of meeting you, but now I have, so I am not frightened any more, because I have met you."
"I…. see," he said slowly. He was clever if he did, she thought. "Lothíriel, why don't you tell me what is really bothering you?"
Well, she could be truthful about that, "I can only ride sideways. I can't imagine what they are going to think of me in Rohan."
"Sideways?" he asked rather puzzled.
"Yes, that is how they make ladies ride in Gondor. They made me when I was about fourteen. It is uncomfortable for long journeys and galloping is not the same. I hate it." She would have stamped her foot, but remembered she was sitting on the table.
Light dawned, "Yes, I agree with you, it must be awful. But it will not be a problem. You are not frightened of horses are you?"
"No, I am not," she retorted indignantly. "Well, I am not saying I would wish to ride one of my brothers' stallions, of course. They are far too big for me. But I like to pet them, they are such sweeties."
Éomer was amused, if she thought her brothers' war-horses were 'sweeties' there would certainly not be a problem. "It will not take long to convert you back to riding properly, if you have ridden since childhood," he assured her, "I will pick you out a suitable mare and teach you in a week. Less probably, with the right horse."
"Oh, thank you." Her face lit up with a smile, "I am not looking forward to arriving in Edoras riding sideways. I am sure everyone will laugh. And I do not really wish to ride beside you on my small palfrey. But I can bear it, if it will not be for long."
"I promise it will be the first thing we will do. I am just sorry that you will not be coming for a visit before September, but there is so much to do. Edoras is still full of refugees and Meduseld is suffering from years of predominantly male occupation. I hope to have everything sorted by our marriage." He gave her one of his very attractive grins, "I intend for us to spend the week before the wedding getting to know one another better and then I aim to spend some time with you afterwards. I know it will not be easy adjusting to a new life and I want to assure you that I will not just leave you to get just on with it."
The mention of the actual wedding caused her some discomfort; she had been putting that bit out of her mind. Then she remembered what it had felt like with him holding her tightly, a jolt shot through her. It was better to change the subject, "I have been reading about Rohan: the history, the customs. It is quite interesting," she said conversationally. It took her mind off wedding nights, or did it?
There was a smile lurking around his lips again, "Perhaps it would be a good topic of conversation at dinner tonight," he suggested.
"Yes, probably better than battle plans." They were both laughing again.
"Lothíriel," he was looking serious once more, "if there is anything else bothering you then I would rather discuss it now. I do not wish you to brood on anything over the next six months. I always think any problems are better aired in the open."
She could not argue with that but how to phrase it. "My Lord," she began.
"My name is Éomer," he interrupted her.
"I am not allowed to call you that until we have been introduced," she said instinctively
"I won't tell anyone."
She giggled softly, wishing he wouldn't look at her quite so intently. It was unnerving. "By rights I should not be alone with you now. It would definitely be frowned upon."
He quirked an eyebrow, "I imagine they would make me marry you." It earned him another giggle. "I suppose you are going to tell me that I am only allowed one dance tonight, or is it two? I can never remember the Gondorian protocol."
"Oh, no," she informed him sincerely, "when you are betrothed you can have as many as you wish. It is the only time: once you are married then nobody has more than about three."
"Why ever not?" he looked bemused.
She shrugged her shoulders, "It is not considered fashionable, I suppose. You are supposed to dance with other people's wives and husbands. I think it's silly."
He sent his eyebrows skywards, "I think my thoughts on Gondorian etiquette had better remain private. Now," he said decisively, "before we get side-tracked you were going to tell me your other worries."
She hoped he had forgotten, but there was one thing she was curious to know. "It is not a worry exactly, but there is something I find difficult to understand." She took a deep breath again, "I still cannot imagine why you agreed to marry me before we met. Oh, I know the sense of it, politically, I mean. But it could have waited. It would not really have delayed the aid, only made it more difficult to persuade certain nobles, I imagine. It just seems so strange to me."
Éomer looked as if he did not wish to answer her, which he didn't. He sighed, running his fingers through his long hair, "It would help to know, would it?"
"But if you really rather not answer," she interjected hurriedly.
"No," he sounded adamant. "I wish our marriage to work, and it will not do so if we hide our feelings from one another." He gave her a half smile, "You are right, the decision could have waited. The aid is important, yes, but it was not totally dependant on our betrothal." He hesitated a moment before saying firmly, "It was the march to the Black Gates."
"Black Gates?" she asked confused.
"Yes," he nodded. "The battles were one thing, 'Helm's Deep', 'Pelennor', but the march to the Morannon was something else entirely. The nearer we got, the heavier the stench, the mire and the fear. Some could not make it and had to turn back."
"I know," she nodded. "My brothers told me."
"Well, that option was not open to them, or to me. Or to any other captain of course. We dealt with it, your brothers and me, by talking about the good things. What we were fighting for mostly. I knew Éowyn was going to live and I wanted to be there for her, for Rohan. I wanted to stand with her and watch the herds of horses grazing peacefully on the plains of the Mark. I wanted your brothers to see them. That's when they told me about you, how sweet and gentle you were and that you were never unkind to anyone. How you liked playing with children and about your pretty garden." Then," he shuddered, "they told me what your father had charged you with: carrying Alphros to safety. An impossible task, but you never once showed your fear. They were so proud of you. It reminded me again what we were fighting for: so that women and children would be safe. You sort of represented all that was good in those dark times. Brave without knowing it.
"I was not brave. I was scared," she said honestly.
"But you did not show it did you? And however impossible the task you would have tried."
"Merilan and I had a plan," she said quietly. She had not told anybody this. "We knew we would never really get away, but we would not be taken. We thought to make it through the caves to the high cliffs further along the coast and then if we were pursued, if there was no chance, then we would jump. All three of us together."
Éomer said nothing, his face said it all.
She smiled to lighten the atmosphere, "Surely that is not why you decided to marry me."
"No, not exactly. I subtly asked your brothers all about you, talking about pretty ladies pushed away some of the fear. I did want to meet you, especially after the ships arrived with all the stores," he grinned, "but then to be honest with so much to do and Éowyn harrying me about Faramir, I forgot about you."
"Yes, more or less, until we were at Edoras. Théoden was buried, Éowyn was betrothed, and I was besieged by every hopeful parent in the Mark. At least that's what it felt like. The Council was beginning to seriously annoy me and if I had chosen a wife from Rohan, then whoever I chose, I would have upset somebody."
"There was no one you wished to marry?" There it was out, the question she had wanted to ask.
He shook his head, "I was in love with someone a long time ago, but she married another." He grinned again, "I see her occasionally; she has four children and is very happy. I have no regrets and she would not have made a suitable Queen. Unlike you."
He never answered her, just laughed. "A few nights before Aragorn left to escort the hobbits home, we all had a long talk."
"Faramir told me."
"Well, the suggestion was made, I have forgotten who by, but anyway it all fell into place. I would upset no one parent in the Mark more than another. The alliance made total sense and I value my friendship with your father and like your family. So here we are."
"Faramir told me something about Gandalf."
"You will probably find this difficult to understand, but I have always trusted Gandalf. He has never betrayed my trust and he assured me you were the perfect wife for me and the perfect Queen for Rohan." He held her eyes for a moment, "Only time will tell if he is right."
The Princess dropped her eyes and studied her hands which were twisting together in her lap. When she looked up his penetrating gaze was still locked on her face. "I promise I will do my best."
"I know you will," he said softly, disentangling himself from the chair and moving towards her. "So we are making a bargain between us, to both do our best?"
She nodded as he moved closer, knowing what he was going to do. She had never really been kissed before and was unprepared for the feelings that seemed to creep into every part of her. Such a little kiss, what ever would it be like when…
"That was nice," his face was scrunched up with the effort of suppressing his laughter at her embarrassment. "Are we going to pretend we have not met at the reception tonight?"
Lothíriel managed to regain her composure, "I think we had better, I certainly would not like to explain this meeting to my father. We should have left the door open. Anyway, it will be true," she said wryly, "we have not been introduced." A bell rang far off, "I must be going," she said in sudden panic, "my maid will be waiting to dress me."
"I will go first, do not worry I will make sure all is clear." He lifted her down from the table, planting a kiss on the top of her head. "I will see you tonight." He stopped just before he reached the door and turned to speak to her again, "Oh, Lothíriel, by the way, just to make sure that there is no mistake, after we are married if I wish to dance with you all night, then I will." Chuckling at her expression he unlocked the door, listened for a moment and then he was gone.
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.