As for our favourite two…..
Epilogue - Edoras August 3021
The lash of heavy rain against the window interrupted my reminiscing and brought me back to the present. I had heard rumbles of thunder in the early hours and now the sultry weather had finally broken. The rain sounded almost as fierce as that on the day of my marriage. Perhaps I should take it as an omen – a good omen. I had cried on my wedding night and yet marrying Éomer, something that had filled me with dread at the time, had turned out to be the best thing I could possibly have done. Almost a year had passed since I had come to Edoras as an outsider, but now I felt truly at home. And my husband? He had become my friend, my companion, my lover. My lover! How much I loved him and this should be the happiest morning of my life. I struggled up onto one elbow and looked at the cradle which stood close to the side of the bed. Sleeping soundly, snuggled amidst a soft woollen blanket, lay our baby son, the culmination of that love. I squeezed my eyes together, but although I tried to stop it, another tear escaped and slid slowly down my cheek.
The faint squeak of the outer door opening made me hurriedly wipe the tears away and I stuffed the handkerchief back under the pillow just before the door to the bedchamber quietly swung inward.
Tawny-gold hair appeared around the door, “Lothíriel?” The familiar voice was unusually hushed.
“It’s all right,” I whispered back. “He’s asleep.”
The door opened a bit more but Éomer held on to it with one hand to stop it banging back, whilst balancing a large tray in the other. “I intercepted Elfgyuu and got a lecture on not making a noise and a dressing down because there is no hibiscus tea left. She seems to think I should have sent a Rider to Dol Amroth to get some…Lothíriel,” a frown furrowed his forehead as he stared at me, “what is it? You’re crying.”
I swallowed and shook my head, unable to answer. He abruptly dumped the tray on the large chest at the bottom of the bed and covered the short distance between us in a few hurried steps. “I am sorry,” I managed to get out as I was pulled gently but firmly against my husband’s chest.
“Are you in pain, my love?”
“No. No, I am not,” I assured him. He stretched up and looked over my head towards the cradle.
“The baby’s all right, isn’t he? There’s nothing wrong?”
Naturally he sounded slightly anxious and I immediately felt guilty and hastened to reassure him. “He’s fine.” I sniffed. “There’s nothing wrong. I am just being silly.”
“So…you are all right and so is our son. Then are you mad because I had too much wine and ale last night?”
Startled, I looked up at his face. His eyes showed his concern but also a gleam of humour. I shook my head, “Of course not. If a man can’t celebrate the birth of his firstborn son, when can he? Besides, I doubt if you had much choice.”
“No,” he agreed, “It would be easier to count the sober ones by the end of the evening, and my normally restrained brother-in-law was the worst of them. In fact Éowyn eventually went to bed in a huff.”
“Yes, she came to say goodnight and told me the only other time she has seen Faramir the worse for drink was on his last visit to Rohan.”
“Well!” He immediately bristled, pulling a face. “It’s no good her blaming me for that. For some reason Éothain and the rest of them seem to think it behoves them to get as much down the worthy Steward’s well-bred neck as possible.”
“They see it as a challenge. At least that’s what Éowyn thinks.”
“Does she? She’s probably right. Anyway, they did not restrict their attention to Faramir last night. I can’t remember when last I woke so woolly headed.”
Feeling better now his strong arms were wrapped around me, I put my worry aside and grinned, saying softly, “What did you expect? A male heir on the first try! They are proud of you.”
“They are proud of you also,” he murmured dropping a kiss on the top of my head, “and I am proud of you. I distinctly remember telling you so last night.”
“You did,” I agreed, remembering a very loquacious Éomer. His guards had tapped a barrel the moment I had admitted to the first pains.
“And did I tell you that you are the best wife a man could have and….”
“Yes, you did. You also announced, as you held your baby son in your arms, that he was the first of many and that you considered making them the best part of the whole thing!”
“Oh. Did I? I am sorry.” His eyes dropped from mine, but he made no denial. “Is that why you were crying?”
He looked uncommonly contrite so I put my hand in his, “You announced it so loudly the whole of the Meduseld must have heard, before you were ordered out. But that is not why I was crying. I expect it’s just a reaction.”
“That would fit with you, my love. As soon as we announced you were carrying our child I was warned that you would be impossible to live with. Everyone delighted in telling me that you would blame me for everything, throw things at me, even. But you were your normal sweet self throughout. Even during all that hot weather when you must have been so uncomfortable. The midwife said you were full of pluck and made no fuss yesterday, so it doesn’t surprise me to find you tearful now it’s all over and you’ve produced the next Son of Eorl.”
I swallowed, gulping down air, determined not to cry again. “What’s on the tray?” I asked to divert him.
“Oh, just about everything…except hibiscus tea, that is.” He stood up from the bed and stared at me for a moment, probably wondering at the change of subject.
“I don’t mind what tea it is. I am thirsty. I was brought buttermilk in the night as it’s supposed to be easy to digest, but I am not very keen on it. I have drunk all the cordial they left me.”
He frowned. “You should have rung and not lain here thirsty.”
“I knew someone would be in soon,” I said being deliberately evasive, not wanting to admit to my prolonged bout of recollective musing. Éomer said nothing, but plumped up the pillows to help me sit up before going to the tray and pouring out some tea.
“Can you manage?” he asked sitting down on the bed beside me and handing me the cup.
“I am not an invalid,” I reminded him, smiling at his concerned expression. I sniffed the tea: blackberry and something. “At least it’s not raspberry leaf. I’ve had enough of that for a while.”
“I suppose you have,” he slanted me a wry look. “Did it work?”
“The midwife reckons so. I’ve nothing to compare,” I shrugged, “but Éowyn said I had a reasonably easy time of it.”
“You mean they are all surprised at the fortitude of a princess from Gondor?”
“I heard that mentioned, but only in the nicest way. I think they feel that a year in the Riddermark has had its effect on me.”
“You’ve certainly had your effect on the Mark.”
“You know you have. And on a few in particular. Which reminds me, you must eat your porridge before it gets cold.”
Éomer fetched the tray and put it down on the small chest by my side. Besides scones, bread and a selection of fruit there was something wrapped in a cosy. He removed the covering and took the lid off a small earthenware pot. “It’s still quite warm,” he said, ladling in honey and cream.
I passed him my empty cup and took the pottery dish. It was nice and warm but not too hot to cradle in one hand.
“You’d better eat it. I was given orders not to let it get cold.” He stood over me for a moment awaiting the verdict.
“Its fine,” I assured him having tasted the first mouthful.
“Good, I’ll just get a chair. I won’t wake him will I?”
“I don’t think so, as long as you’re quiet. He fed well just before dawn so we’ve probably got another hour.”
When he tip-toed to the fireplace to fetch one of the leather chairs I stared at him realising that he had no boots on.
“Elfgyuu made me take them off.” He said in answer to my look. “She said the longer he sleeps the more rest you will get and so recover quicker.”
I grinned. “So far, each time I have fed him he has just gone back to sleep, but I am sure that won’t last.”
As I finished my porridge, Éomer sat gazing at the small bundle in the cradle but as soon as I put the spoon down he got up to fetch a scone. He spread it with butter and jam, passing it to me with a grin. “I have orders to make you eat.”
My appetite was not great but to please him I nibbled at the scone. Once he saw I had started to eat it he stood over the cradle looking down, his face expressing all the joy, relief and satisfaction one would expect. I wanted another cup of tea but hesitated to break into his moment of fulfilment. He let out a long sigh of what sounded like contentment and turned his head slowly to look at me.
“Lothíriel, I never did take you to Dol Amroth in the spring as I promised, did I. It…”
“Why should you think of that now!” I hissed in a low voice that sounded harsh even to me. But I knew why: he had noticed too, otherwise he would not have mentioned Dol Amroth. My heart started to thump wildly and tears filled my eyes again. Éomer stared at me, a look of bewilderment on his face as the first tears trickled down my cheeks.
This time he got right on the bed enfolding me in his strong embrace and pulling my head down to rest on his shoulder. “Is that what is bothering you? I know I promised, but you agreed it was best not to travel when you felt so nauseous, and afterward the heat became intolerable. Éowyn has had no problem travelling with a young baby so…”
“No.” I nestled my head into his shoulder so I did not have to look at him. “It’s not that. It’s something Éowyn said.”
“Éowyn, what did Éowyn say? She speaks without thinking. If she has said something to upset you I will …”
“No, no,” I interrupted, “she only spoke the truth. She did not mean to upset me.”
“Lothíriel,” he said his voice firm. “Stop crying and tell me.”
I sniffed, gulped and finally got the words out. “She said our son looked like my father.”
He sounded as if he had to choke back a laugh. “Your father is a handsome looking man, distinguished, I don’t see …”
“He’s a Gondorian, Éomer. Your son is going to look like a Gondorian.” I almost shouted in his ear and then had to pull away to wipe my eyes.
Éomer went still for a moment and then answered enunciating every word slowly and deliberately. “Lothíriel, are you telling me you are crying because our son might resemble his mother?”
Mother? Of course no one seeing us together would doubt I was Imrahil’s daughter; however that did not change anything. “But the people, if he does not look like a Rohír they won’t love him, Éomer. I don’t want him to feel ostracised. I had to put up with it, but he is so little.”
Drawing me back against him again, Éomer started to smooth his hand over my head until gradually I relaxed and the tears ceased. “Lothíriel,” he said when I had calmed, “our son may resemble his mother more than his father. That does happen. There is no reason to upset yourself over it. Believe me, most will only be too pleased that the continuation of the bloodline of Eorl is assured. If he is dark-haired and more akin to his mother than his father, it will matter to no more than a few.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am sure. You are regarded as one of our own now. And even if our son looks like a Gondorian, he will speak, ride, fight and act like a Rohír. He will grow up amongst his kinsmen, learning the history, the legends and the ways of the Rohírrim. The colour of his hair or the features of his face, will be of no account.”
The warmth of his arms around me and his deep, confident voice convinced me of the sense of his words and my tears dried. “I’d like another cup of tea,” I said in a small voice.
A kiss on the top of my head and Éomer let me go, easing himself off the bed and moving quietly to the tray. “I have thought of a name for our son,” he said when he passed the cup and sat back down on the edge of the bed.”
I took a few big gulps of the tepid liquid before looking at him over the rim of the cup. “What have you decided?”
“I haven’t decided, Lothíriel, but my suggestion is Elfwine.”
“Elfwine…Elfwine…Elf…friend,” I rolled the name around my tongue for a moment. “Yes, I like it. And it’s very appropriate for the Fourth Age, when the Elves that are left are the friends of men.
“And his mother reputedly has Elves for kin.”
“In the distant past,” I said, pleased.
The first little mews of discontent came from the cradle, causing us both to swing our heads. Almost before Éomer could even rise, the mew became a demanding wail. “Lungs like his father,” I remarked, “and just as determined.”
Éomer flashed me a grin and stood over the cradle hesitating for a moment. “Go on,” I said.
“He’s so tiny, I am afraid I will hurt him.”
“No you won’t and everyone will come running if we don’t stop him yelling.”
Ever so gently, he pulled back the blanket and scooped one large hand under the now angry little bundle, using the other to support his head. I made myself comfortable against the pillows and pulled at the lacings on my gown before he passed Elfwine into my eager arms. The yelling lessened to a pitiful whimper.
“Can you manage, or shall I call someone?” he asked, watching me intently.
“They helped me the first few times but I did it myself in the night with just supervision. I’d like to try alone now.” Carefully, I put finger and thumb each side of my nipple and spread them out, as I had been shown. My nipple stood erect, and Elfwine latched on after only a few impatient little nuzzling movements.
“There,” I said, full of a deep satisfaction quite unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life before. “They say my milk will come in properly after a few days. What’s there now is enough for him.”
Elfwine suckled contently for a few moments, his little mouth moving in a sweet rhythm. I glanced at my husband who had pulled up the chair and sat watching me with what I could only describe as a smug expression on his face. “What are you thinking?”
The smug look changed to one of contentment, “I am thinking that I cannot imagine any better sight for a man than that of his beloved wife feeding their precious son.”
Those awful fears that had turned me into a gibbering goose vanished completely as I locked eyes with my husband. The demands of duty had made Éomer as he was, as it had shaped me, and duty would call our son. The bond between mother and child could never be sundered but I knew that Elfwine, growing up in a harsh land of fierce people would have the benefit of his father’s protection, advice and unconditional love. He could ask for no more.
His kinship with Éomer of Rohan, though distant, was recognized by Imrahil, and great friendship grew between them. Éomer wedded Imrahil's daughter [Lothíriel], and their son, Elfwine the Fair, had a striking likeness to his mother's father.
From Unfinished Tales by J. R.R.Tolkien.