2. Lothiriel's Journal 1
Written for Maddy
Dol Amroth - Summer 3020
Knowing she could bear her brother’s teasing no longer, Lothíriel rushed out of the room, her journal tucked under her arm. Amrothos might be right – watching the palace gates would not bring the messenger any quicker, but it passed the time and allowed her to dream. Well, she would have been able to dream if her family left her alone to do so.
Once out in the courtyard, the sun beating down on her bare head, she hesitated. Trying to decide where to go. The beach would be baking in the early afternoon and they might not come that far to find her. It would have to be her mother’s garden. She still thought of it as her mother’s and so did her father, although he never went there. But he kept it up together, or at least the gardeners did. Her father never begrudged money spent on his dead wife’s little hideaway, even if he could hardly bear to pass through the arched doorway. Her brothers didn’t come much either. But maybe that was because big feet and large frames were not conducive to tripping lightly along pebble paths made even narrower by the profusion of scented plants and herbs that tumbled wantonly over the white-stone edging. Even Meren, her eldest brother’s wife, preferred the large open space of the main private grounds, and Alphros wasn’t allowed anyway because of the fishpond. Lothíriel smiled to herself at the remembrance of young Alphros removing his clothes and wading into the ornate lily pond, tramping down the pads and trying to catch the bright orange fish that glittered enticingly just below the surface. Another smile tugged at her lips. The garden had become her own special place, an intimate area where she could read and write her journal and feel close to her mother.
Skirting the edge of the courtyard and keeping in the shadows as much as possible Lothíriel turned behind the family’s private quarters and followed the high stone wall until she reached a heavy wooden door. Reaching out her hand to the latch she stopped, drawing her forehead into a frown. Would they know she had come here here? On reflection, she thought they probably would. They only had to speak to the guards at the gate to find out she had not gone down to the beach. And they would look for her. Amrothos might take the opportunity of tormenting her until she squirmed, but really he had a kind nature and he always had her best interests at heart. As soon as the messenger came from Edoras he would find her and hand over her letter. Lothíriel’s heart started thumping uncomfortably – there would be a letter, wouldn’t there? Éomer would have written. He would have replied to her communication. Warmth flushed her face. Had she said too much, given away the depth of her feelings? Perhaps she had embarrassed him and he would ignore it. No, he would reply, even if only with another unsatisfactory stilted missive similar to the one he had sent last time. Although she was glad that Rohan had been blessed with enough rain and spring sunshine to give the crops a good start, it was not really the sort of message she wanted from her betrothed. ‘I am looking forward to our marriage,’ could hardly be considered a passionate declaration of undying love. Perhaps men only said wonderful things in books.
Shaking her head in frustration, Lothíriel pushed open the door and entered another world.
The tinkle of a softly playing fountain greeted her first, and then the sound of birdsong. It always amazed her how many different kinds of small birds visited the garden, some even nesting there. She supposed the water attracted them, or the surfeit of insects that buzzed around the bright bougainvillaea or crawled in and out of the large yellow cups of Solandra. The pretty little finches had all flitted up into the creepers that clothed the stone walls as she entered but she knew that if she kept quiet they would descend again, some to chase ants that scurried over the pebbles others to delve for tiny seeds that had fallen down between them. Better still, they would take turns to come to bathe, chattering like excited children and fluffing their feathers importantly to one another.
Lothíriel picked her way along the pebble path that led to a wooden seat set in a wall niche. Screened and shaded by a feathery Tamarisk and the overhang of the wall, it made a cool and restful retreat on such a blazing afternoon and Lothíriel snuggled into the soft cushions, which were put out by the palace servants on fine days such as this. Once curled into one corner with her back supported by a bolster, she had a good view of the shallow edge of the pond where the birds liked to play. Shielded by the greenery the finches would soon ignore her and descend again, eager to continue with the social obligations of belonging to an elite little flock.
Comfortably settled, Lothíriel took the small key that hung on a chain around her neck and fitted it into the ornate lock that kept the leather covers of her journal together. She had no intention of anyone else ever reading her most secret thoughts. Carefully, she started to flip her way through the pages, searching for the entry made in Rohan three months ago on the evening of the day she had first met her future husband. She came to the page describing the night before the meeting, which she had spent as a guest of Lord Albin, a minor lord with a vineyard high in the White Mountains and whom her brother Erchirion had met in the war. Laughing, she read how nervous she had been, wondering what the King of Rohan would think of her. ‘Will he like grey eyes and dark eyebrows?’ she had written. ‘My hair is thick and black but my skin is fair. I have a nose that turns up slightly at the end, maybe he would prefer a more elegant accoutrement. And I am quite tall, not slightly built like lots of ladies but well formed. My breasts are large and difficult to hide, what will he think?’
Lothíriel dissolved into giggles, glad she was alone. In spite of Aunt Ivriniel telling her that she must keep her charms, as the old matriarch called them, hidden from all men, even her betrothed, she had not missed Éomer’s eyes moving from her face to her chest and back to her face before he had bowed his head. He seemed to like them well enough. Her fingers moved to turn the page but she stopped, and changing her mind she started to flip the leaves backward instead. She had plenty of time and would start from the beginning, reading the bits from the end of the war when she had first heard of him. She had not looked at those writings for ages and although she could remember without prompting almost every thought that had passed through her mind and every reaction she had felt when she had first set eyes upon Éomer, it would be nice to remind herself of those first days. Reading the passages would help her relive the excitement she felt at the end of the war when she knew with certainty that a husband would be found for her. That had been followed by the mixture of anxiety and anticipation when she had suspected who it might be. She flicked back unhurriedly, her eyes catching sight of various entries, some which brought a smile to her face, others a frown, until she found the page she sought.
Entry for 30 March 3019
‘I am almost too excited to write; in fact I am not sure I will be able to sleep tonight. For today we heard we have won the battle for Middle-earth. The Men of the West have defeated the Dark Lord and Gondor will soon be crowning a new King. Today I have learned not only of the bravery of our own people but what happens when men join together to fulfil an ancient oath and how the courage of one small halfling can change the course of history. ’
Lothíriel put the heavy book down to rest on her lap; she did not need the words to remember. As always when she started to read, the pictures and the memories jostled together in her mind until clear recall emerged, taking her back to the time and the place…
The day had dawned clear, the darkness and cloying cloud might never have been. A great restlessness was about the city, Lothíriel felt it in the way the servants were preoccupied, hanging around in groups waiting for something to happen. Elphir felt it too, but then he had found it harder than anyone over the last weeks. Staying in Dol Amroth when his father and brothers went to war did not sit well with him, but the city had to be defended, their people protected.
Unable to concentrate on any useful task, Lothíriel dragged Anniel, her distant cousin and companion, up onto the battlements that surrounded the fortified city of Dol Amroth. The older woman complaining all the way.
“Just because no one else is doing anything it doesn’t mean you have to waste your time, Lothíriel. And what do you want to come up here for anyway, there’s nothing but the sea to look at.” The breaths coming from her mouth were short and fast, climbing three flights of stone steps made the plump little woman pant hard.
Lothíriel caught hold of her hand, pulling her up and chiding her affectionately. “You want to keep off the sweetmeats and pastries, Anniel, or you won’t be able to get up here at all.”
“When you look like me, my girl, then eating is the only pleasure you are likely to get.”
“Nonsense,” Lothíriel laughed, “I saw the baker squeeze you around the waist only yesterday. And don’t tell me that Gerwin isn’t interested because I won’t believe you. He follows you around like a lapdog.”
“Tsk…” Anniel made a sound somewhere between a hiss and a snort through her protruding teeth. “The baker only likes me because I order so many cakes and as for that oaf Gerwin… let me tell you, Lothíriel, if I am going to sacrifice myself a second time to the marriage bed then it won’t be for any drooling lapdog. It will be for a real man.”
Lothíriel raised her eyebrows in astonishment, “Sacrifice yourself? That’s not what you usually say. I have heard you state that the only proper place for a woman is beneath a man.”
Anniel’s eyes widened in feigned shock “Not to you I didn’t say it. Your father would send me straight back to Lossarnach if he thought I put ideas like that in your mind.”
“No,” agreed Lothíriel, chuckling, “I overheard you saying it to Meren.”
“Well, there you are then,” Anniel pronounced with obvious satisfaction, “Meren’s a married woman. And I doubt she had to do much sacrificing, wedded to your handsome brother.”
Lothíriel shook her head in amusement, “You are incorrigible. But you are right: my father would not be pleased if he knew what kind of education you are giving me.”
“He should be glad that you won’t go to your husband in complete ignorance as many noble young ladies do. You won’t be prostrated by fear on your wedding night.” Anniel waited a short moment and then her lips twitched, “Just prostrated, I imagine,” she added mischievously.
Lothíriel grinned in response but then her laughter evaporated as she reached the castellated wall and stared out between the stone blocks to find only empty sea. “There probably never will be a husband, Anniel. We have heard nothing since the messenger after the battle, no news from the Black Gates. Whatever possessed my father and this Lord Aragorn to ride to confront the Dark Lord in his own domain?”
Anniel put her hand on her charge’s arm, offering well meant comfort that did nothing to dispel the fear that Lothíriel had resolutely masked under her schooled and trained countenance. “They know what they’re doing and must have had good reasons. Sooner than you think your father and brothers will come riding back here, waving banners and singing victory songs. Your father will pick you a fine warrior for a husband and my job will be done.”
Lothíriel went quiet for a moment before saying diffidently, “Perhaps there won’t be enough men left to go around. I will probably end my days sewing samplers and looking after Elphir’s increasing number of children.”
“Now what kind of talk is that…”
“Sail in sight!”
The shout from the lookout made them both jump. Lothíriel turned sharply, her eyes searching what still looked like an empty sea. “Where?”
“In the haze, half a league south of the point, Princess.” The lookout answered from the tower above her.
Lothíriel peered in the direction the man had pointed. For what seemed like an age she could see nothing, but then she glimpsed the outline of a sail. Hurrying footsteps, and the Master of the Watch crossed the top of the wall and climbed the ladder to the tower. A few minutes later he reappeared. “It’s Wild Swan, Princess. She’s coming fast with the tide.”
Lothíriel grabbed the arm of a passing guard, “Find Prince Elphir.”
But her brother appeared a few moments later and as rumours of the sighting of a sail ran like wildfire thorough the city, those not allowed on the walls crowded the areas below.
With the ship still at a distance and shielded by the haze of the hot afternoon, even the lookout from his vantage point high above them could not discern her device. Elphir hesitated, for their ship might be in enemy hands and lowering the chains across the harbour mouth could bring disaster…
Lothíriel flicked the page. There was no disaster. What had she written…? ‘Wild Swan returned today and for the first time I saw my father’s ship flying not just the Silver Swan but the ensign of the King of Gondor. A sight I thought I would never behold.’
She read further… ‘I experienced such a mixture of exalting joy and awful sadness. My father and brothers are virtually unscathed, and most of our Swan Knights have survived. But the men have suffered badly. I feel it is due to their inferior weaponry and armour and found it difficult to face the women who have lost husbands and sons. The plight of one young mother struck me forcibly. With her baby clutched to her breast, she stood as one turned to a marble statue when told her husband had been buried somewhere far from Dol Amroth. I will see she is employed in the palace. There will be something she can do without being parted from her child. But now is not the time to find out what skills she may have.’
Lothíriel sighed. Lissi had proven to be an excellent needlewoman, and with all the bride-clothes and the warm garments needed for relocation to Rohan, her talents had been appreciated. But employment and recognition did not replace a husband and father… she shook her head. Thinking back to the sadness would do her no good, there had been much celebration as well. She was supposed to be remembering the first time she had heard about Éomer. And that had been that evening when she had sat with Elphir and some of their wounded Knights who had returned on Wild Swan.
‘I could barely eat a mouthful, my mind fixed on the brave deeds of our soldiers. I say soldiers, but running through all the accounts of the first battle the part played by the Lady Éowyn of Rohan stood out clearly in my thoughts. That a high-born lady would ride to war was the antithesis of all I have been taught as a noblewoman of Gondor. In my country the men protect the women, and in turn the women minister comfort and care to their husbands, fathers and brothers, but are subject to their control. It has always been the way of things here, but I admit that my heart sings with pride that one such as her could strike so deadly a blow for the cause of the just. How I long to meet her.’
Lothíriel put her book down again; Éowyn was not as she had thought at all. Not large, loudmouthed and manly, but willow-like and slim. Her fine bones belying the strength of her flesh. Not much like her brother either. He was certainly large and strong; manly but not loudmouthed. At least not with women, although maybe in battle. A shiver of something she recognised as desire shot thorough her at the thought of her betrothed, bringing warmth to her body even in this shady spot.
‘It was my father who recognised that Lady Éowyn still lived, and because of that they carried her to the Houses of Healing, but her brother Éomer thought her life extinguished and in his grief went on a rampage of killing that took him and his Riders far into the enemy ranks, nearly proving disastrous.’
Lothíriel had a little grin to herself; she well remembered the tales told that night and the dig in the ribs she had received from Anniel at the mention of the heroes in the battle…
“This Aragorn, sounds like a man to be reckoned with. And he’s going to be our King, Lothíriel. Now who better to be his queen than the Princess of Dol Amroth?!”
“He must be at least eighty years old, Anniel,” she hissed back. “I may be eager to marry but I am not going to marry an old man. He’s older than my father.” It was true she viewed marriage as necessary, all noble Gondorian women did. It was their only hope of any independence. The only hope of having some say over their own lives, at least if they had an indulgent husband. But she couldn’t imagine she would have much freedom as Queen of Gondor.
“He doesn’t sound like he’s eighty, not by the way he fights.”
Anniel did not sound prepared to give up but Lothíriel knew she’d always had high aspirations for her charge. Grinning wickedly, Lothíriel leant close to her cousin, “I rather like the sound of Éomer of Rohan. He is young and undoubtedly brave. Do you think he is handsome?”
“Rohan?” Anniel whispered furiously. “Don’t you even think of going there. By all accounts my kinswomen, Morwen, couldn’t stand it. Cold windy place that it is. She couldn’t wait to come home.”
But by the end of that evening Lothíriel was already lost in her dreams. Rohan was the country that produced women like Éowyn and warriors like her brother, Éomer, who laughed in the face of despair and raised his sword in defiance when faced with unconquerable odds.
To be continued – when the dream intensifies.
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.