6. The Discovery
“Will you slow down!” Éowyn protested at being dragged along and almost had to run to keep up with her brother’s long strides. She still had the hair brush in her hand and plonked it on top of the head of a marble bust of Cirion they happened to be passing.
“I am not sure the worthy Steward would like that, and anyway you should show respect. After all he ceded Calenardhon to us,” Éomer threw her an amused grin.
“You would not stop so that I could return it to my chamber. I can hardly take a hairbrush into Merethrond,” she replied indignation dripping from pouting lips. “And why are you in such a hurry anyway?”
“I told you, I have to speak with Amrothos before the feast starts. He will probably be drunk afterwards.”
“What do you have to say to Amrothos that is so urgent?”
“I need to ask him if he would like to come riding with us in the morning.” He could not think of anything else that would extricate him from the embarrassing situation he had stupidly put himself in.
“Why should you want to ask Amrothos? You are supposed to be getting to know Faramir.” Éowyn succeeded in slowing her brother down by the recently learnt tactic of throwing her arm around a convenient pillar.
Éomer stopped and let out a deep sigh, “Because I asked Nessa to come, so now I obviously have to ask Amrothos.”
A smug grin spread slowly over his sister’s face, “I can understand you asking…Nessa, but please enlighten me, Éomer, why do you feel you now have to ask Amrothos?”
“Éowyn,” he came back rather sharply. “Are you particularly dense this evening. I cannot go riding with her….unchaperoned.”
“But Faramir will be there,” Éowyn looked baffled. “And if Amrothos comes then he will want to bring Nienna and there will be so many of us you will not get the chance to talk to Faramir. He will be busy with his duties tonight and ….”
“Whoa… Éowyn,” It was Éomer’s turn to be mystified, “Who is Nienna?” The name sounded familiar to him but he could not place it. The unexpected wallop that hit him solidly in the back took away any chance of him remembering where he had heard it before. He choked on air, fell forward a pace or two and started coughing.
“Well, laddie,” a gruffly muttered growl penetrated through his coughing fit. “I mean, well, Éomer King. You have smartened yourself up a bit. That’s what having a woman does for you.”
Éomer turned around, to face a heartily grinning Gimli; at least Éomer thought it was a grin and not a grimace. Not easy to tell: what with the Dwarf’s beard and his own watering eyes. “What woman?”
“This beautiful one here, of course.” Gimli took hold of Éowyn’s hand and relocated it somewhere near his mouth.
The wide corridor suddenly seemed crowded as following Gimli out of a side passage, came Legolas and four chattering hobbits. No, not quite right as only three were chattering, Éomer observed. Frodo appeared to be quiet and lagged a little way behind. Éomer immediately had an idea what bothered him, he knew very well himself what it felt like to be suddenly thrust into the limelight. For Frodo it would be even worse. The prospect of being a guest of honour in the great hall of Merethrond tonight after weeks spent in the wilds with just Sam and that gruesome Gollum for company would be daunting. He had spent time recovering in the relative peace of the camp at Cormallen but Éomer had noticed that he still looked wan and pale.
Éomer wanted to get on but greetings between friends naturally took a while, then Gimli and Legolas started an argument about the glittering hoard of Scatha the Worm. Sparked off by remark Legolas made about the Éothéod after noticing the hairbrush on top of the bust of Cirion way back down the corridor. Éomer heard mention of the dragon’s tooth necklace and the demise of Fram and deemed it better not to enter the fray lest relations between himself and one particular Dwarf, were severed.
The chance of getting a quiet word with the youngest Dol Amroth prince before the feast was receding fast, Éomer realised with tempered resignation. Merry and Pippin had waylaid Éowyn and were asking her opinion of their fancy attire. They had ordered it in Cormallen and it had been waiting for them when they arrived in the City. They were both vying vociferously for her attention. His sister was feeling the different materials and commenting enthusiastically on the vibrant colours of the outfits. Éomer, who personally preferred to wear something more subdued, had never realised quite how diplomatic Éowyn could be.
Sam, who wore a sumptuous but tasteful outfit in rich brown velvet, turned around to check on his master, who having caught up once had fallen behind again. Éomer touched his arm and whispered quietly. “Is Frodo well, Sam?”
Sam shook his head, “He is tired, my Lord. It has been a long day already and it will be a lot longer yet. He had no rest because Merry and Pippin spent the whole afternoon talking nonsense and preening in front of the mirror. I think he is worried about the feast tonight. His stomach will not take all the rich food.” Sam shook his head again, “The sting from that ‘orrible stinking spider affected him worse than we thought.”
Éomer waited for Frodo to catch up, his own problems fading to insignificance for a moment. He might tower over the hobbit in height but in nothing else, he reflected. “Frodo, I will tell Aragorn that you may wish to retire as soon as the official part of the evening is over and I will arrange for a steward to attend you as soon as we get to the hall. You can tell him what you will be able to eat.”
“I do not wish to be a nuisance, my Lord”
Éomer just managed to restrain himself from ruffling Frodo’s hair, “You will never be a nuisance, Frodo, not in Gondor or the Riddermark.” He grinned at the hobbit, “you will be in trouble though, if you insist on calling me ‘my Lord’, and that goes for you too, Sam.”
“It’s all right for Mr. Frodo,” Sam shook his head again, “but it doesn’t seem proper for me. I could call you Éomer King, I would be happy with that.”
Éomer gave up; he was never going to win that one. He caught Frodo’s eye and winked at him. “You do that, Sam, if you are more comfortable.”
The lively party quietened down as they left the building to cross the Place of the Fountain towards the steps that ascended up to Merethrond, the huge feast hall of Minas Tirith. Darkness had not completely fallen but there were braziers lit around the courtyard and torches on the walls of the hall. The area outside the entrance thronged with people, mostly men. Many of them were his own countrymen and Éomer guessed that they were putting off going inside for as long as possible. Greetings were called out but he did not wish to stop. He could be sociable afterwards. The crowd hugged the doors closely but as by some prearranged signal the whole lot of them parted to form a pathway up the steps. There were outright stares of curiosity and wonder by the Gondorians amongst them. Probably the closest look most had had of a dwarf, an elf and four hobbits. Walking thorough the bowing nobles Éomer realised that he had a lot to do before he took his place. He wanted to talk to Amrothos but before that he needed to find a steward. He did not want Frodo to be at all embarrassed or ill at ease.
Erchirion was the first person he saw when he entered the immense hall. The Dol Amroth Prince had a bemused expression on his handsome face and appeared to be studying some kind of seating plan, drawn on a huge piece of parchment. The prince swept his eyes over the group and raised his eyebrows. “Ah…, my esteemed cousin, the Steward, will be a little annoyed with me. I was supposed to send someone to ask you all to come in the other end of the building and join our new King and his entourage. You are supposed to enter the hall together when everyone else is seated. I forgot,” he grinned not looking the least apologetic.
Éomer ignored this, he couldn’t see it mattered which way they came in. He took Erchirion aside and asked him to find a steward. The Prince immediately collared an immaculately dressed retainer standing behind him. The man stepped forward, bending himself in half in front of Éomer. He declared himself to be at the service of the King of Rohan. Éomer explained Frodo’s requirements; one thing he had noticed was that you never had to tell a Gondorian servant anything twice. The man bowed again and assured him he would attend to the Lord Pherian personally. That done Éomer turned back to Erchirion, “Where is Amrothos, I cannot see him?” The hall was full of people milling around and squeezing between the tables trying to find their seats but he could not see him or Nessa anywhere.
“Look for a dark haired beauty and he won’t be far away. I have never seen him so attentive,” Erchirion snorted. “This is going to change him for ever.” He looked as though he found he found his brother’s behaviour surprising. Éomer didn’t at all. The Prince joined him in surveying the huge mass of guests. Not an easy task as the vast majority of them had dark hair. Their eyes swept from person to person and it did not take long before their interest was noticed by some of the company, notably the ladies amongst them who were starting to edge distinctly nearer to the two men. This caused Erchirion to chuckle wickedly, “I wonder how many we could snare between us.” The Prince watched the scenario of the slowly advancing female throng for a further moment and then murmured in Éomer’s ear, “Do you think they are aiming for me or you? I am better looking but then… you are a king, so perhaps we should share.”
Éomer, who would have under normal circumstances found the situation, and Erchirion, quite funny, could only manage a groan. He had some inkling of what he might be in for once the meal finished and the dancing began and he was definitely not in the mood. He just wanted to find Amrothos and forget about his disastrous conversation with Nessa. He would have to keep away from her on the ride in the morning.
Erchirion gave up and shook his head, “I can’t see him in the hall; he’s probably in the antechamber with the rest of the family.”
Éomer nodded and hurriedly followed Éowyn and the others before the stalking pack of predators could reach him. The group were being led down a side passage towards the back of the hall. Separated from the main atrium by filigree stonework it looked to be used by the servers. The passage came out next to some double doors that led into a large antechamber. The doors were open and Éomer could see Aragorn talking to Faramir and a couple of others he recognised, from their frequent and bothersome visits to Cormallen, as high lords of Gondor. He looked around as he entered, determined to talk to Amrothos before he became involved with any one else but Aragorn spotted him and waved him over and the same moment Gandalf appeared from nowhere and took the hobbits aside. Gimli grabbed hold of Legolas and steered him towards a table holding wine and goblets he had already spotted. Éomer had no choice but to take his sister’s arm and make his way towards Aragorn and Faramir.
Faramir looked across when he saw his liege wave and to Éomer’s satisfaction he witnessed a definite catch in the man’s breath and a rudely abrupt break off of his conversation with his neighbour. Faramir stared unashamedly at Éowyn his eyes moving up and down her. The whole group followed his gaze and his sister turned a very pretty shade of pink. Good, the man had passed the first test. He had no wish to see Éowyn married to a cold passionless fish.
Aragorn was the first to take Éowyn’s hand and raise it to his lips. Éomer watched fascinated as his sister dropped into an elegant curtsey. When had she learnt to do that? More importantly, who had taught her? He rather felt he knew the answer to that one. Then something else amused him when he caught sight of Aragorn’s hands: someone had obviously instructed their King in the use of the pumice.
Faramir inclined his head towards him, “My Lord, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to Minas Tirith and Gondor. Éomer noticed a faint flash of amusement in his eyes. “I am sorry that I was unable to greet you in a fitting manner last time we met.”
Éomer set steely eyes on him, “I may overlook it since you happened to be unconscious at the time,” he said in a deliberately expressionless voice. He took the steward’s outstretched hand and subjected it to a grip that would have crushed a warg’s skull. Faramir’s calm grey eyes met his squarely and there was no visible sign of discomfort on the other man’s face. Before the Rohír could challenge the Steward further he received a painful jab in his ribs.
“Éomer, cease that!” Éowyn hissed in his ear.
With a few embarrassed shuffles and with various mutterings of apologies the two Gondorian lords remembered they had duties elsewhere.
“Lady Éowyn,” Aragorn could hardly contain his amusement, “you do not have to worry. I rather feel the honours are about equal. But perhaps I should try and persuade your brother to stay here longer. He has a knack of getting rid of annoying advisors.”
Éomer let go of Faramir’s hand and broke into one of his characteristic grins, “Annoying already? Then I am glad to be of service,” he inclined his head slightly to Aragorn, “I shall rely on you doing the same when you come to Edoras for Théoden’s funeral.” He turned to Faramir, speaking to him as if the last few moments had not happened, “I imagine we will have the pleasure of your company as well. Good.” He grinned again, “I understand Éowyn has arranged a ride in the hills in the morning; it will give us chance to talk about the arrangements.”
“Indeed, my Lord,” Faramir replied sounding totally unperturbed. “I shall look forward to it.”
“So shall I, if you stop calling me my Lord.” Éomer’s gaze suddenly became fixated as he caught sight of Amrothos and Imrahil over Faramir’s shoulder. What captivated his attention was that the young prince had a lady on his arm. A lady he did not recognise. She had dark hair but curly, not straight. She had the grey eyes of Dol Amroth. She was very lovely, but not as lovely as Nessa.
“Oh,” said Éowyn who had followed his gaze, “there is Amrothos and Nienna. You will be able to ask him now, Éomer. Although there really is no need as Faramir is going to be there.”
“What do you want to ask me?” Amrothos grinned, obviously blessed with good hearing. Luckily Éomer was spared having to answer for a moment as Imrahil thought that his first duty should be to introduce Nienna to the Kings of Gondor and Rohan.
Éomer took her hand in a daze. She had a charming smile, a sweet voice and she smelt gorgeous, but the scent was not Frangipani and he felt nothing but relief.
“Well, Éomer, what did you want?” Amrothos asked again as soon as the introductions were over. “I have just spoken with Erchirion and he said you were looking for me.”
Éomer opened his mouth but when nothing came out immediately his sister butted in. Definitely a good thing because he had no idea what to say.
“He’s asked Lothíriel to come riding with us in the morning so he wants you to come as chaperone. I told him Faramir would be enough but…”
“But he doesn’t trust himself with my sister?” Amrothos, interrupted chuckling loudly, “I am not sure I trust him with my sister…I shall definitely come.” He turned to Nienna, “I have already promised Lothíriel my spare horse but we can find another for you.” He glanced towards Faramir who nodded in agreement. The Steward looked as if finding a horse could be considered an easy task compared with the hundreds of other things requested of him.
Éomer felt he must say something. There was only one thing he wanted to say. He focused on Imrahil. The Lord of Dol Amroth wore a smug expression, giving a good impression of being very pleased with life and with the King of Rohan in particular, “Where is your daughter, Imrahil?” he asked politely, surprised that his voice sounded so normal.
“She is helping Erchirion. He appears to have difficulty concentrating on the task in hand with the result that the guests will most likely end up sitting on each others laps. Lothíriel will sort it out,” he said confidently.
“How gratifying to have such a beautiful and accomplished daughter. She must be a great help to you, Imrahil. I understand she is an expert rider, as well. Capable of keeping up a good fast pace all the way to… let’s say all the way to Edoras shall we?” Aragorn had more than a smirk on his face. He addressed his remarks to the Prince of Dol Amroth but managed to look at his Rohirric friend out of the corner of his eye at the same time.
Éomer decided that Gimli had the right idea; a large measure of wine was definitely needed. His brain had started to feel fried, in fact it felt on fire, and only a dose of strong spirit likely to douse the flames. He wanted to think. He wanted to think without any interruptions and the chance of that about unlikely as… well he couldn’t think what. In the past few months the most unlikely and unimaginable things had happened: Lost kings hiding in the grass; trees that talked and moved; Halflings that walked into Mordor. Mistaking one woman for another - surely way down the scale of unlikely things to happen. In fact, it was probably far more likely than his sister learning to curtsey and wearing silk ribbons in her hair. That thought reassured him. He was not going mad. Getting goddesses mixed up could be considered quite normal. But he still wanted to think. He wanted to go over what they had talked about. How could he have not realised? Imrahil’s daughter! No wonder she felt confident enough to relax in his presence she….he stopped as something else elbowed its way into the forefront of his mind. He had thought she was flirting with him but he had dismissed the idea as nonsense because he thought her in love with Amrothos. True, she may be just a very friendly person, but… a warm feeling spread through him. Perhaps he did not need the wine quite so much after all.
To be continued.
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.