8. Chapter 8
The bed chamber was quite large, and the bed definitely huge. Lothíriel stared at it with some concern - it was nice of him to give it up for her, but it was going to be rather lonely until he actually shared it. But then the very thought of that occurrence was causing her stomach to knot into a tight ball. However much she had learnt over the summer it had not prepared her for the feel of his hard body against hers when they had ridden together. How could she feel like that when she hadn't seen him for months? She was not expecting the strange feeling of longing than crept unbidden into every part of her. Well, she had been glad he had shown an interest in kissing her, so he would probably be pleased that she was quite interested in … well, more than kissing actually, much more, but kissing would do for a start. Lothíriel put her hand to her mouth in sudden shock – what was she thinking? How could she think like that when it had been made very plain to her for most of her life – that she certainly should not think like that? She spent a few moments trying to make sense of her feelings – surely it was a good thing, surely her future husband would be pleased she felt drawn to him in that way. How were you supposed to think nothing about those things until the day you wed and then, presumably, think about them a great deal? It was silly. Her father and brothers would probably not agree, but whatever they thought, she, Lothíriel, was glad that that was how she felt about Éomer. She was lucky. There was no denying that. She could have been betrothed to a fat ugly man who picked his teeth and stank of garlic. No, her father would not have done that to her. The fact that she had accused said father of promising her to a huge ugly warrior, Lothíriel pushed aside for a moment. Content at this time to bestow gracious thoughts on the Prince of Dol Amroth and believe that he had not entirely been considering the benefit to Gondor but also just a little of the benefit of the alliance to his daughter. This generous thought was interrupted by the arrival of Frecca with her bags.
"We had better get your wedding dress hung up straight away, Princess. I thought you might have sent it with your other things on the wagon."
"I wanted to keep it with me. Then at least I knew that if I got here safely, then so would the dress. It caused so much fuss to be made I would hate to have lost it." Lothíriel helped her maid to unpack the beautiful garment from its layers of lawn wrapping, at the same time explaining to her the arguments she had had with her aunts about the design of the dress.
"It is certainly beautiful, Princess, and if you designed it yourself then I can see that the ladies of Rohan are going to be following your lead when it comes to dressing."
Lothíriel laughed. "Believe me, Frecca; one thing I am looking forward to in Rohan is being a little bit less formal."
"Yes, we are less formal. But once in a while everyone wants to dress up. Like at Yuletide or the summer solstice. It will be lovely to do so with the war behind us. The last few years, we haven't bothered much."
"You are right, it is nice to put on one's finery occasionally but when you have to do it most of the time it becomes irritating."
"Well, we have to wear practical clothes nearly all the time. Especially as we are often on horseback"
The Princess was just going to broach the subject of leggings for riding when there was a knock on the door and the housekeeper, Fréowyn, arrived with a tray of tea. Frecca picked up the dress quickly and took it through to the adjoining dressing room, obviously thinking it ought to be kept as a surprise to most.
"Is there anything you need, my Lady? What about a bath?" Fréowyn suggested.
Lothíriel shook her head, "I had one last night so I would just like some hot water for a wash please. We did not travel far today." She had no idea how easy it was to produce water for numerous baths and was well aware that, unlike her, not all had enjoyed one the night before.
The housekeeper smiled. "I imagine you may wish to rest until supper but perhaps tomorrow I could show you the kitchens and go through all the domestic arrangements. Once King Elessar arrives we shall be so busy and so very crowded."
"I would like that, thank you."
Lothíriel was not sure she wanted to rest. She was too elated and interested in her surroundings, but she gave the woman a nod in agreement. She had learnt that it was always best to pretend to concur with senior servants; cordial relations ensured a harmonious existence.
Fréowyn left and the princess picked up her tea and wandered through to see what Frecca was doing. The girl was putting her clothes into one of the large ornately carved wooden wardrobes, along with some of Éomer's ceremonial tunics. She was glad there was a dressing room, Amroth had been right: there was certainly only one royal bedchamber although there was a sitting room and two smaller bedrooms, intended for children. The whole apartment occupied the south western corner tower of Meduseld and caught the late afternoon sun. Not surprisingly, it was probably in the best position and she could glimpse the stables from at least two windows. She had not been in the stables yet: Éomer had kept her out saying that when she met her new horse there would just be the two of them. He insisted it was not something you did with a huge audience and they would go riding tomorrow. Leggings – she must ask Frecca. At that moment, however, there was another knock on the door. She answered it herself as Frecca was busy. This time it was Éomer.
"You are not resting, then?"
"No, I am not in the least tired. I am too interested in everything."
"Good." He looked pleased. "I thought you might like to see around the place, not Fréowyn's domain," he hastily added, "but everything else."
A warm feeling spread through her, for a moment he looked like a little boy wanting to show off his toys. Not a little boy though when he gave her his arm and once again she was conscious of the power of him and the feel of the hard muscles beneath the soft fabric of his tunic.
"I would like that very much."
Lothíriel realised that she was enjoying herself: immensely. The food had been good. She never ate large portions, as she only had a small frame, but what she had eaten was tasty and well presented. She must ask what the meat had been as it was unfamiliar to her, but whatever it was, cooked in a wine sauce, it was very pleasant. So was the honey syllabub. She had not tried the ale, probably because she was feeling in a benevolent mood towards her father. The poor man was in for another shock when she went riding the next day.
She let her eyes wander around. She and the other nobles of Rohan and Dol Amroth were sitting at the long table that ran down the centre of the hall. Others were sitting at the side tables. There was plenty of space at the moment but it was evident that once the party from Minas Tirith and Ithilien arrived, not to mention other wedding guests, then it would be really crowded. With the meal ended there was a pleasant hum of conversation and a musician was playing on what looked to be a kind of lyre. The ones at home were often made from turtle shells, but this was crafted from leather. It was homely and peaceful, even with the extra guests. A shiver went through her; she knew she was going to be happy.
Éomer's voice made her jump.
"You were far away. Is everything all right?"
"Yes." Lothíriel found that she was quite anxious to reassure him, "I very much like what I have seen. You have shown me the hall and the garden and tomorrow Fréowyn will go through all the domestic details. It will naturally take a little while before everything is familiar, but…"she hesitated and then said, "even though I am bound to miss Dol Amroth and I know it will be strange living somewhere else," she put her hand on his arm, "I am going to love it here."
Éomer put his hand over hers and let out a satisfied sigh, "We can visit your family often; it is not far at all now."
"You mean I will have to brave the tunnel again?"
"Well, I enjoyed it."
She laughed: he really did have a wicked grin.
The servants were moving around clearing the tables; Lothíriel was pleased to see that they did not feel they had to wait until all had left the dining hall as they did in Gondor. She always felt sorry for them, often having to stay up so late and be up so early. She had already noticed that here, although they were polite and respectful, they were not so subservient as at home and more used to saying what they thought. She decided she liked it. She turned to Éomer as her dishes were taken away. "What meat was in that stew?"
"It was goat."
"Oh, I do not think I have eaten it before. But it was very nice."
"It will mostly be goat and pork for a while, and not too much of that. We used to run large herds of cattle but they were decimated by Sauron's forces. It will take a while for them to recover."
"The goats survived?"
"They are kept on the slopes of the mountains," he explained. They were much farther from Isengard."
"Have you no sheep?"
"Some are kept on the Wold, mostly for wool. But we have to be careful as they can ruin the pasture for horses."
Lothíriel knew that the Wold was far from Edoras. She had learnt a lot during her short time ruling Belfalas and she sat quietly thinking for a moment. Éomer did not interrupt her but waited patiently for her to speak.
"You could farm sheep on the White Mountains if you chose the right breeds. The sheep we have on the coast would be no good to you; we raise them on the salt marshes. But I am sure that the breeds they farm in Morthond and the Ringlo Vale would do just as well on this side of the range. They would feed on the high pastures and not bother the horses. They taste nice and give milk for cheese."
"Are you sure they would survive here?"
"I think so, but you must ask Elphir. Your horses would be welcome as trade, and horses and sheep could be moved easily by way of the tunnel."
She laughed when Éomer looked around to locate Elphir as though he was going to ask him straight away.
"Make sure you only buy from flocks where the ewes regularly produce twins." It was surprising what you picked up when entertaining all those boring dinner guests," she thought.
Éomer look at her as though he could not quite believe what he was hearing, but then must have remembered her efficiency with the supplies after the war because a slow smile crossed his face.
Catching his expression she laughed again. "I bet when you first set eyes on me you did not think I knew anything about sheep breeding?"
Eomer sat back in his chair and deliberately fixed his eyes on her. "Lothíriel, I can safely say that when you fell into my arms in the library, sheep breeding was not on my mind. Breeding perhaps," he murmured almost under his breath.
Blessed with good hearing, Lothíriel stared at him for a moment and then started to laugh quietly. "Luckily for you, Éomer King, in spite of my father and my brother's best efforts to turn me into one, I am not a prude."
"Well, now we have established that, perhaps you would walk outside to take the night air. I believe it is a beautiful evening."
She knew he was challenging her somewhat. But he was wasting his time; as soon as they walked out the door she was sure one of her brothers would decide the hall was too hot.
She was right, they had hardly reached the end of the long table before both Amroth and Erchi decided a walk outside would be pleasant. Éomer said nothing, just raised his eyebrows in a resigned way and led her to one of the benches on the stone platform outside the doors.
"I imagine they will follow us wherever we go so we may as well just sit here."
"I am afraid they will," she agreed. "What were you like with Éowyn?"
"Much the same, I suppose," he grinned. "Although they did manage to sneak off occasionally. There was only me. You have three to watch over you."
"I cannot imagine why they think I need watching over."
"No, I agree, you probably don't," he laughed. "It is me they are watching."
Lothíriel thought she had better ignore that one. "When are we going to go riding?"
"If you think you can be up, then at dawn for the first time. There will be hardly anyone about and you will feel less inhibited."
"I have no problem getting up early." She decided she would be up in time, even if she had to stay up all night. But luckily his next words made it clear that would not be necessary.
"If you can manage to get dressed without Frecca, I will arrange for a guard to knock on your door with tea. It would be a shame to wake the girl up so early."
"Of course," she readily agreed. "I am perfectly capable of organising myself and would not wish to disturb her unnecessarily." Damn, a thought crossed her mind, she had not asked about leggings. The unease must have shown on her face.
"What's the matter?"
"I have nothing to wear. I meant to ask Frecca about leggings."
"Well, she will still be up, but you do not have to worry as there will be some suitable clothes put out for you."
She gave him a relieved smile; she could not deny it had been worrying her. "I am glad; I am really looking forward to riding properly. I am looking forward to the sense of freedom," she confided.
Frecca was waiting for her when she at last reached the bedchamber. It had been a very satisfactory evening, she decided, even though her brothers were a pain. Because of them she had received only a chaste kiss goodnight, although it was on her lips and was better than nothing.
"Frecca, I am going riding at first light, but I need something to wear."
Frecca pointed to the bed. "There is a riding outfit all ready for you, Princess."
Lothíriel looked around surprised. "Riding outfit?"
The girl nodded. "Yes, it was made especially for you. When Éomer King came back from Lady Éowyn's wedding and your betrothal was confirmed, he said you would need one."
Lothíriel was speechless. Had he really arranged this himself?
Frecca must have realised what she was thinking because she broke into a grin. "I think he asked his sister to take a note of your measurements and she passed them on to Lord Éothain's wife. She organised it all to be made."
The Princess picked up what was obviously a tunic. It was made of soft green wool and embroidered much like the cloaks worn by the Lords of Rohan. Folded underneath was a pair of soft doeskin leggings and a linen blouse. There was also a pair of supple leather boots, embossed down the side with a design of running horses. Lothíriel had no doubt they would fit: she and Éowyn had spent almost the whole of one day shopping in Minas Tirith. They had especially enjoying trying on shoes and slippers.
"It's all so beautiful, and so practical," she said at last. "I must thank, Éothain's wife. Hulda, isn't it?"
"Yes, that right. Most of us just wear leggings under our dresses, but that would not be suitable for the Queen. Lady Éowyn also had an outfit much like this one. Oh," Frecca remembered something, "you will have to wear your own cloak for this week, Princess. You will receive the royal one at the same time you are given the Queen's circlet. But the tunic you can wear tomorrow."
The Princess grinned, sharing her mirth with the maid. "I was wondering how my father would cope if I sat astride a horse with my skirt around my waist."
Frecca took the clothes and put them on a chair ready for the morning. "What time are you going, Princess?"
"At dawn, but there is no need for you to rise. I will manage perfectly myself."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am. To be honest I enjoy doing things for myself. When I am allowed that is," she said rather ruefully."
"Well, Princess, you must say what you want to do yourself and what you want help with. No one here will be offended."
"Good. I think living in Rohan is going to be quite different from Dol Amroth. And now," she said decisively, "I think I will retire since it is such an early start in the morning."
"Will you be alright on your own, Princess?" Frecca asked. "I will willingly stay if you are anxious."
Lothíriel looked around the bedchamber, noting the rich hangings in green and gold, the carved wooden horses and crests. How many Kings and Queens had used this room she wondered? How many had died in that bed? It did not worry her. "I am used to living in an ancient castle, full of dark, dingy corners. I am happy to stay in here on my own. The room has a pleasant feel," she assured the girl. The fact that some of Éomer's belongings were very evident, made her feel easier.
"It should have," Frecca laughed. "It was cleared out and cleaned before Éomer King came home from the wars, but when we knew you were arriving, Fréowyn insisted every hanging was cleaned again, very thoroughly, and all the bed linen was renewed."
"That was very kind when there is so much to do in Rohan." The princess could not hide her pleasure."
"We have not had a Queen for many years, Princess. All wished to make you welcome."
"All? There must be some who would prefer to have a Queen from their own land."
"Yes," Frecca answered, in what Lothíriel was already recognising as the typical honesty of her race. "But most are pleased we are renewing our friendship with Gondor. Also it is generally felt that if we are to have a foreign Queen, then we deserve no less than a princess."
"I am sure you do," she laughed, just hoping they would not be too disappointed with this particular princess.
In bed at last, Lothíriel mulled over the day. She had thought it would have been more difficult than it turned out to be. She recognised that some of the ease she felt was due to Éomer and some to the genuine warmth and welcome from the people. It felt good. And tomorrow would be good as well - because she would meet her new horse.