6. Chapter 6
The tears were running down her face. She could not stop them. Lothiriel pulled her horse to a halt and turned around in her saddle for one last look. She knew that once they entered the woods the Castle would disappear from view.
Amroth eased his mount up alongside her, "Lori, do not upset yourself. It is not as if you will not ever come home for a visit. It is only a four day ride now. And anyway, I have come to believe that you are quite happy to be going to Rohan."
"That does not stop me missing the place I have lived all my life, Amroth. I may be happy about going to Rohan but that does not mean that I am not a little apprehensive. You, after all, know what to expect. I do not."
"I know it is not easy, but at least you and Éomer got on well." He grinned at her. "I always knew you would of course."
"It must be wonderful to always be so right," she retorted sarcastically. But he was right. They had got on well, especially after the lion incident. She appreciated that her betrothed did not rant and rave at her like her father. True, like Erchi, her father had soon calmed down. He had even told her that he was proud of her, but he did fuss. Éomer did not fuss. Everybody else fussed and the next day the whole episode had been the talk of the court. She was just thankful that the wedding had taken place that afternoon. The wonderful spectacle gave everyone something else to think about.
The Princess kicked her horse forward and wiped the tears from her eyes. She was on her way now so there was no point in crying about it. She must try and enjoy the journey and at least they did not have to camp. She was relieved that her father knew enough of the local nobility to ensure beds and baths for the ladies of the party. Some of the Knights had brought their wives, and what with Alphros and her new nephew, Elphin, and a nurse, quite a few beds would have to be found. No maid though. Elda was retiring so she was sharing Merilan's girl until they reached Dunharrow. It was there that she would meet her new maid from Rohan. New maid, new husband, new life. Lothíriel started trying to name the things around her in Rohirric. A new language as well to contend with. She had found that it was not an easy one and difficult to learn even with the help of young Elric. Practising it passed the rest of the day.
The next morning she was yawning, managing to ride her horse by instinct. Elphin had cried a great deal of the night. He had been travelling tied in a sling across his mother's chest and must have enjoyed the motion of the horse since he slept peacefully for most of the day. By the time everyone was ready for bed, not surprisingly, he had wanted to be awake. Lothíriel had taken more than her turn with him, walking around and around singing lullabies. At least it kept him quiet and she did not mind. Truthfully, she loved having his small little body snuggled up to hers. She loved the softness, the warmth and the smell of him. Thinking of babies led on to thinking of marriage and Éomer, which naturally led on to wedding nights. Well, at least she was not so ignorant now. She knew a great deal and certainly, she giggled, the effect a woman could have on a man. She had tried it out and it had definitely worked. She wondered if she would have the chance to try it out on Éomer, before their wedding night, that is. Not that the thought of her wedding night did not make her nervous, but at least she now knew what to expect. As the date of the wedding crept nearer she had been speculating if they intended to keep her in total ignorance of the finer details. She spent some time plucking up courage to ask Merilan all about it, even though relating it to her brother would be embarrassing, when the Lord and Lady of Lamedon had arrived. Thank goodness they did, she chuckled, although she was sure that her father still did not think so.
She thought back to that day when the guests had ridden into the courtyard. Lord Angbor was an old and respected friend of her father's but she had never met his wife. Her first thought was that she looked stern and formidable and that she would not make the most entertaining of supper companions. Not a pleasing prospect when it was going to be a private occasion. Things had changed though. Her father's steward, Heclan, was indisposed which left a young footman in charge of the wine. Lothíriel giggled to herself, remembering. Lady Elnid had been talking to Merilan for most of the evening, about babies. A subject on which, it seemed, she was a great authority. Not surprising since she had had so many. Her father was deep in conversation with Angbor and had forgotten that the footman did not know of the rules pertaining to his daughter's wine consumption. Every time the young man came around with the jug her goblet was filled. Her brothers did not notice as they were arguing together about the best way to track a deer. For the moment she was forgotten. She had started thinking about Éomer and Rohan and did not realise, at first, that she was being addressed.
"Lothíriel, my dear. We are ignoring you. Once I start talking about babies I cannot stop."
The Princess started. Maybe she would have to revise her opinion of the lady. She could not be that bad if she liked babies.
"And talking of babies, are you looking forward to your marriage and being Queen of Rohan?"
It was one of those strange pauses in the conversation. One when all go quiet together. All except herself.
"I am quite looking forward to being a Queen, I suppose. But as for marriage itself, then I have no idea. Nobody will tell me anything so I am quite ignorant of all but the basics. Therefore I do not know whether I will enjoy it or not." The silence grew deeper for a moment and she did not notice her father's face starting to go red. "In fact," she carried on, "I am not even allowed to watch the stallions covering the mares in case I learn something." She was not allowed, but she had. It was a couple of years ago when she had discovered that there was a good vantage point from one of the guest bedrooms in the east wing. But they did not know that.
"Lothíriel!" Her father was puce.
"No, no, Imrahil!" Elnid waved him quiet with her hand. "Are you telling me, child that no one has thought to enlighten you with regard to your approaching nuptials?"
"I asked my maid but she told me to close my eyes and hang on to the sheets. Very tightly. I cannot believe that that is all there is to it." She answered without thinking.
"Probably never done it in her life." Erchi was the first to break into laughter. Amroth could not control himself so pretended he had dropped something under the table. Elphir looked stunned. Merilan embarrassed. Lord Angbor was chuckling into his napkin and her father was dumbstruck for a moment but soon recovered.
"Elnid, I must apologise for my daughter. I fear wine does not agree with her." He had noticed the two red spots on his daughter's cheeks.
"Nonsense. There is nothing to apologise for. I asked a question and I received a truthful reply. You cannot chastise her for that. In fact I think you are all to blame, not her. Marrying her off to a man, such as I understand the King of Rohan to be, with no preparation. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves." She looked around the table and announced in a very commanding voice, "Since Lothíriel has no mother then I will take charge of her education concerning this matter."
The Princess opened her mouth to protest. However much she wanted to find out certain things she could not imagine discussing them with such a matriarch. But Lady Elnid had not finished. "Do not look so worried child; I will not be instructing you myself. I have a very sensible daughter- in- law. A charming lovely girl. She is madly in love with my eldest son, something I find difficult to comprehend," she interjected frowning slightly, "however, that aside, she is just the person to talk to you. I am sure you will get on. In fact," her face broke into a smile, "you will love my little granddaughter, just three months old." She turned to the Prince, "What I suggest, Imrahil, is that Lothíriel comes for a short visit. She can travel back with us, stay a week and return well before you need to leave for Rohan. One of you had better come as well," she was looking at Amroth and Erchi, "to escort your sister home."
For once her father looked flustered. "Elnid, I thank you, but there is no need."
"There is every need. She cannot enter marriage totally unprepared."
"No, I agree. We have been lax." Imrahil gazed around the table his eyes stopping on Merilan. "She can talk to Merilan."
"No, father. I do not think that is a good idea." Elphir looked quite distraught.
"I agree," Lady Elnid stated with certainty. "It is much too close to home. She will feel much less inhibited talking to Jana."
Imrahil sighed. "Very well. Lothíriel will probably enjoy a change of scene. It will help pass the time to the wedding." He looked toward his two youngest sons. "You can go Amroth, but don't let her drink the wine."
"Humph…" Lady Elnid looked a bit doubtful. "I suppose he will do. But I warn you, young man," she wagged her finger at the youngest Prince of Dol Amroth, "keep away from my daughters."
Lothíriel grinned to herself: Amroth had definitely tried to keep away from the daughters. In fact he had tried very hard. They however, had had other ideas and as long as their mother was not about, pursued him relentlessly. Watching him trying to avoid them had afforded her and Jana endless amusement. Jana was great fun and they got on from the start. Her having such a sweet little baby girl broke the ice and led to intimate conversations. As her mother in law had said, Jana was in love with her husband. She was totally enjoying marriage to a man who on the surface appeared quite dour but, as one got to know him, the deep twinkle in his eyes became apparent and he revealed a witty and dry sense of humour. He was indulgent of his wife's sense of fun and did not bother to question the reason for the princess's visit. He was happy to leave them plenty of time to talk. Lothíriel thought back to the day she had been told of the effect a woman could have on a man's anatomy, just by being close to him. She had been totally surprised and she had been even more surprised by finding out that kissing was not restricted to the lips. That evening she had sat at dinner looking around at the men of the household thinking about what she had learnt. She could not imagine doing any of those things with any of them. Probably a good job, she decided. As for Éomer? Well, she had not seen him for months so it was a little difficult to tell how she felt about it, but the thought was surprisingly intriguing. One thing she did know however - she wanted to find out if she could excite a man by dancing with him. Lady Elnid's daughters inveigled their mother into arranging dancing most nights, much to Amroth's chagrin. But at least it gave her the chance to experiment. It was easy to pick a victim; the youngest son of the house appeared to be smitten with her. She could hardly fail to observe that he turned pink and stuttered and stammered every time they conversed. Amroth had noticed and teased her about it. Of course Lady Elnid had noticed as well. She did not miss much. After the tables were cleared she whispered in her ear, "Let my youngest son have one dance. It will make his night." The Lady of Lamedon was quite direct. Lothíriel had found it a refreshing change and, by then, had become quite fond of her hostess.
The young man was about the same age as herself. He was tall and quite good looking, but, she realised, that compared with Éomer he came across as little more than a boy. Halfway through the dance, after some very stilted conversation which caused her partner's face to go redder and redder she pretended to stumble and fell against him. She knew it was very naughty of her, but after all she needed all the knowledge she could obtain and she would bet Éomer would not be so embarrassed.
Lothíriel came out of her reverie to realise that they had reached their night's accommodation in the Morthond Vale. Tomorrow they would meet up with him. Right now her back was aching from hours of riding sideways and all she wanted was a long hot bath.
Lothíriel knew that Éomer and his guard would be waiting for them not far from the entrance to the Dimholt. She had been trying to forget that part of the journey, being terrified she would disgrace herself by showing her fear in front of her future husband. She was giving herself a good talking to - after all the way was likely to be lit by torches - when she realised that riders were trotting down the road towards them. Her heart leapt to her mouth as she saw the King of Rohan at the front of the group. He did look magnificent. It was the first time she had seen him on horseback surrounded by his Royal Guard, all green and gold with spears glinting in the noonday sun. Firefoot was huge, she noticed at once and she hoped he would ride next to her father. After greeting her he did just that, thank goodness, up as far as the area chosen for lunch. Watching him deep in conversation she was struck once again by how kingly he looked. This induced more nerves, but when they stopped and he came to lift her down from her horse, it all changed.
"What's her name, Lorí?" he asked kissing her on the cheek. Well it was better than the top of her head, and she supposed her father was watching.
"Fudge?" He raised his eyebrows. Obviously not the kind of thing they called a horse in Rohan. "Oh, I suppose for her colour?" She was a palomino.
"No. It was the politest thing I thought when I was made to ride sideways," she explained with a lopsided grin.
"It's not the mares fault," he laughed, "and in spite of what you think, like you, she is not that small."
"She is when compared to Firefoot. And I am short when compared with you."
"But not against many of the ladies of Gondor, and anyway you pass the test."
"What test?" she asked puzzled.
"I will not have to pick you up to kiss you!"
Lothíriel had to stifle her laughter and Éomer put on a decidedly innocent face when her father glanced over to them. Well, at least it seemed as though he wanted to kiss her. She wondered when he would actually get the chance. Hopefully quite soon, she mused. And wouldn't it have been awful if he had met her and shown no interest in doing so at all. She was pretty sure he was reasonably happy with his choice of wife. Pushing pleasant thoughts aside she voiced her main worry.
"I will still look silly riding next to you and I am sure your people will be appalled that I ride sideways."
"It won't be for long. I have picked you out a mare that I am sure you will love."
"Oh, what is she like?" she asked excitedly.
"Wait and see," he replied enjoying her enthusiasm. "Now we must eat. Your brothers are looking daggers at me."
"Oh, they are always starving. Do not be deceived. They ate a huge breakfast."
The Rohirrim had prepared a meal - hot soup, with bread, cheese and fruit, but Lothíriel found she could not eat much. Knowing that the entrance to the Dimholt was within sight was affecting her appetite. Éomer was explaining that on the other side of the mountain the entrance was by way of a ravine that became narrower and narrower until it was completely enclosed, but from this side there was just a large cave like entrance in the mountainside. It looked awful. What it would be like when they got closer she dare not think. She was terrified already.
The makeshift camp was packed up and Éomer brought Fudge and Firefoot over to where she was standing. "I hoped you would ride next to me now, Lorí. It will not really look that silly," he laughed. "I want to be near you when you first enter Rohan."
She nodded her head, but was unable to say anything. She felt sick.
Éomer was looking at her with a concerned expression. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing. I am fine."
"No, you are not. What is it?"
She shook her head. How could he tell? She thought she was managing to hide it well.
Éowyn was right. He was a bully. "You will think me such a coward."
"Lorí, after what I witnessed I am very unlikely ever to think you a coward. Now tell me."
"I am frightened to go under the mountain," she said hesitantly. "When I was a child Amroth locked me in a dark cupboard. He went out riding and forgot me and it was ages before anyone found me. I have been petrified of dark enclosed places ever since. Do not worry. I will do it, of course." She spoke confidently to reassure him.
Éomer said nothing immediately but called to one of his guards and handed Fudge's reins to the man, speaking a few words in Rohirric.
Without explaining his intentions he lifted her up and sat her on Firefoot, and then sprang lightly into the saddle himself. "Before we get to the entrance close your eyes and bury your head in me. You will not be aware of where you are and it will make it easier."
"Lothíriel!" her father sounded askance when he saw them. "You cannot ride like that."
"Your daughter is afraid of the dark tunnel." Éomer answered for her.
"Oh yes. I had forgotten." The Prince considered for a brief moment. "Well, she will have to ride with Amroth."
Lothíriel opened her mouth to make a sharp retort. It really was ridiculous. He had insisted on her marrying the man and now with the wedding only a week away was concerned that they were sharing a horse. She did not get chance to answer however.
"Since Amroth was the cause of the problem I will not give him the pleasure." Without waiting for a reply or any further protest, Éomer squeezed Firefoot into life and headed up the mountain.
She did not dare look back at her father's face.
"Close your eyes," he told her softly. As she did as she was bid she felt his cloak being wrapped around her. "You won't even know when you are in the tunnel."
Under the cloak she felt warm and safe. She laid her head against his chest and slid her arms around his waist to stop herself from slipping. Well, that was what she told herself. She soon realised why her father has been reluctant to condone this. It was an extremely intimate position as she was virtually sitting between his legs. She could feel the steady beat of his heart, the solid muscles under her hands and could smell the lovely maleness of him. That is when a wicked thought came into her head and she wriggled even closer.
"Lorí," he whispered, "If you continue to do that, I will no longer be able to control my response to you and I do not wish to insult you."
"I think I would be more insulted if you did not respond." She wondered if she had been too bold, but she heard his deep chuckle and felt a kiss on the top of her head. She knew he would not be embarrassed.
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.